California Space Grant Team Introduces Carnival Physics to Rural San Diego County High School Students: LIVE from the Los Angeles County Fair 2012

California Space Grant Distance Learning TeamThe California Space Grant Team recently led a distance learning activity between the Los Angeles County Fair and physics students at Mountain Empire High School, which is located in rural southeast San Diego County.

Based on a concept developed by the National Science Foundation-funded High Performance Wireless Research and Education Network (HPWREN) team, the Live Interactive Virtual Exploration allowed the rural high school students to explore the physics involved with carnival rides – without leaving their classroom.
Bottle Accelerometer Demo
Using off-the shelf equipment and freeware, the California Space Grant team and peer presenter communicated in real-time with the Mountain Empire physics students; specifically, an iPhone4S (with a headset) streamed real-time video and audio via Skype, using the Verizon Wireless 4G Network with an average upload speed of 1Mbps. The iPhone was situated atop a monopod with an iPhone mount.

Following brief introductions, California Space Grant Director John Kosmatka talked with the remote students about the ways in which acceleration data is collected and used to calculate g-loads. After answering questions posited by the remote students, Zoe Currigan (peer presenter) and Parya Jafari (aerospace engineering student) walked the students through a Bottle Accelerometer hands-on activity, which was found in their “G-Force LIVE!” traveling trunk.

Collecting DataIn addition to the hands-on activity, the students were provided with an interactive website that further explains and depicts the physics behind amusement park rides. To compile the website, the Space Grant team collected acceleration data using an accelerometer placed in a Vernier data collection vest. Video clips shown from inside the ride were collected via a wrist-bound iPhone4S while exterior video was collected using a JVC action camera atop a monopod.

These three data sets (video inside the ride, video outside the ride, and acceleration data) allow students to calculate the g-load of the ride and also *see* what that means.

The interactive website also provided the remote students with links to videos that were referred to during the distance learning activity.

Following the distance learning activity, an informal evaluation was conducted by the physics teachers among their 22 students. The results are as follows:

  • 95% agree that the information was presented effectively by the presenters.
  • 95% agree that the hands-on activity was fun.
  • 95% agree that they are interested in participating in another activity that allows them to interact in real-time with scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.
  • 86% agree that they learned a lot from the students and researchers at the science/engineering site.
  • 86% agree that they would recommend this type of distance learning activity to their classmates and friends.
  • 73% agree that they are more excited about studying science after this activity.
  • 59% agreed that the audio quality was good.
  • 73% disagreed that the video quality was good.

To address these last two issues, the team is replacing the iPhone 4S with an iPhone5, which will operate on the Verizon LTE Network and have average upload speeds of 5Mbps. This adjustment should decrease the pixelation in the video and increase the audio quality.

This 20-minute video depicts the “G-Force LIVE!” activity; due to significant pixelation in the video, the team is currently replacing the iPhone4S with the iPhone5 as the LTE Network has much faster upload speeds in southern California.

Details regarding the preparation for the September 20 activity: http://californiaspacegrant.org/20120914

Grace, Julie, and Parya



G-Force LIVE! participants included Grace Jang, UCSD Aerospace Engineering student; Julie Narasaki, UCSD Mechanical Engineering student; and Parya Jafari, UCSD Aerospace Engineering student


Mountain Empire High School

Located in rural San Diego County, Mountain Empire High School serves a diverse population of students; the Mountain Empire School District is geographically the largest school district in California.


Physics Classroom


Following the distance learning activity, the Mountain Empire physics students experimented with an accelerometer in their classroom.


California Space Grant Distance Learning Team

Participants in “G-Force LIVE!”: Kimberly Mann Bruch, California Space Grant; Grace Jang, UCSD Aerospace Engineering student; Frank Bogart, Southwestern College graduate and current UCSD Electrical Engineering student; Julie Narasaki, UCSD Mechanical Engineering student; Parya Jafari, UCSD Aerospace Engineering student; Zoe Currigan, Marston Middle School student; John Kosmatka, California Space Grant Director; David Hernandez, UCSD Aerospace Engineering graduate