Year 9 Physics trip to Florida

Year 9 pupils enjoyed an exhilarating and thought-provoking trip to Florida during the Christmas holiday.

Accommodated just off International Drive in Orlando, the group were in the beating heart of the tourist attractions and made best use of them with a very busy agenda. Over the course of a week, pupils visited three of the Walt Disney World Parks, where we conducted Physics workshops led by Disney staff who explained the role of Physics in the design and ‘imagineering’ of the attractions in the parks.

Highlights included being able to access the parks before the general public and enjoy some of the attractions without queuing. Of particular interest was riding the infamous Space Mountain roller-coaster which is fully enclosed in the dark and uses special effects to enhance the rider’s experience. As part of the workshop, we had the very special opportunity to ride the attraction with the lights on as well as off, to see the design and feel the difference the special effects make. In another workshop, the group gained access behind the scenes in the Haunted Mansion attraction to see how animatronics and scrim which is translucent only in one direction are used to create spooky, magical effects.

We also had a thrilling time at the Kennedy Space Centre, completing an astronaut training experience which saw the group conduct virtual reality missions on Mars and simulated spacewalk training to fix the International Space Station. The next day we had the opportunity to visit the launch platforms via a bus tour during which we learned how the next generation of rockets are being built and heard about the recent privatisation of much of the space industry. At the visitor centre the group touched an actual moon rock and saw the real space shuttle Atlantis as well as other real decommissioned spacefaring equipment.

Another thrilling opportunity was an evening visit to iFly, the indoor wind tunnel skydiving attraction. The students completed a Physics lesson, which covered the factors involved in skydiving, surface area calculations and the importance of weight when calculating terminal velocity, and then had the opportunity to fly objects and finally themselves in the wind tunnel!

We visited the Orlando Science Center where the group conducted virtual reality flying of combat aircraft as well as enjoying a wealth of exhibits. Another exciting day was spent at SeaWorld, where we enjoyed a behind-the-scenes tour which explained the mechanics of the water filtration and the methods of keeping the variety of animals healthy. Students even had the opportunity to touch a shark and stroke a penguin!

Evening entertainment included a murder mystery dinner night, mini golf and an amazing escape room challenge.

At the end of every day the pupils were exhausted but full of how much fun they had.

Simon Mavroleon

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