Physics Day at Busch Gardens Tampa Opens Students to STEM Learning

Note: Please welcome guest author Marshal Knight.

On December 7th, Busch Gardens Tampa held its annual Physics Day. This event allows middle and high school students to learn the main components of physics all while experiencing it first hand on their roller coasters. I got to go and I wanted to share my experiences!

My day began at 8am…since my group didn’t realize the park didn’t open until 9am…whoops. (TIP: Whether or not you are going to Busch Gardens for an event, make sure you know when the park opens before you enter the parking lot. The entrance to the lot is set up in such a way where you become stuck until they open the toll booths). When arriving, we met with our teacher (while other schools arrived on bus, we arrived on our own, since our school is 20 minutes from the park), checked in, and received our itinerary. While other schools were assigned show times for a theater show about Physics, we did not.

The park opened at 9 only for Physics Day students. We had the chance to ride all of the rides before they park officially opened it gates, which was a huge advantage. My group members and I got to ride Kumba, Montu, Cheetah Hunt and Sand Serpent in under 45 minutes. Most of the time was just getting from one ride to the other, which ended up being a full circle of the park.

We had lunch at the Desert Grill, Busch Gardens’ dinner theatre restaurant. The Christmas show currently there was nice, but if you happen to see that Dance to the Music is playing…GO SEE IT! It is fantastic! After lunch, we did another loop of the park, this time stopping at the 5 Physics booths set up. The first one we tried out was “I Feel the Need for Speed” by Cheetah Hunt. We measured animal’s stride length, and then calculated the animal’s average speed. If at anytime we had a problem calculating, University of South Florida students were on hand to help.

Next up was “This Bites”, where my group measured the bite force of a tiger by taking measurement of its skull. This one was kind of neat since we could compare our hand force to the animal’s bite force. The best part, though, was the booth’s placement towards the Edge of Africa section of the park. We saw giraffes, did the booth, and then saw hyenas and lions!

“The Physics of Superman” booth seemed bland at first, since it just had us calculate one group members wing span if they were a bird. The neat factor was the photo spot nearby, where you could slide these fabric wings into place to visually show how big the wings would be. Great idea Busch Gardens! (Just in case you were wondering…my friend Melanie’s would be 10 feet in length for each wing!)

“That’s How We Roll” was my favorite booth, as it showed magnetic braking physics. We took a metal can, placed a long copper tube in it (without it touching the bottom), and dropped a magnet down the tube. The result was super cool. The Professor from USF (Dr. Chris) was on hand to show and explain the reaction…and start a group dance on what the reaction looked like.

Finally, we stopped at “The Power of Oobleck”, which explained non-Newtonian fluids via the classic corn starch and water formula. The vat was quite large, so one of the instructors was able to run across the top to prove her point.

Overall I had a great time. I would highly recommend trying to go. Even if you are vacationing at the park when it happens to be Physics Day, try to stop by a booth and listen in. You know what they say…you learn something new every day! Until Next Time…Keep Theme Park-ing It Up!