posted April 23, 2002

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Fuel efficiency will be a major concern during the eighth annual "Physics Day" at Hope College on Thursday, May 2.

In the event's traditional design and construction contest, which will be held in the Dow Center beginning at 9 a.m., teams of students from eight Michigan high schools have been challenged to create vehicles powered by the air from a balloon.

They've been told that their vehicle will need to reach a target located between five and 12 meters (16-39 feet) away--they'll learn the exact distance on the morning of the contest. The winning team will be chosen based on how close its vehicle came to the target in two trials.

The teams are free to choose the form their vehicle takes, working within just a few general parameters: all of the energy supply must come from the air-filled balloon; the vehicle can't leave behind a launch pad or other parts; the vehicle can't be touched once it's started its run; and the vehicle has to carry a light cargo--a small Physics Day decal that will be provided just before the contest.

The contest is one of three events in which the four-member teams will compete. Later in the morning, they will have a chance to solve a physics problem presented to them at the time, using only their wits and materials provided. Following lunch, each team will solve a set of physics problems.

Physics Day is coordinated by the college's department of physics and engineering. The two teams that earn the highest scores through the three events will receive a monetary prize to support the teaching of science at their respective high schools.

The schools participating this year include: Bangor High School, Battle Creek Math and Science Center, Holland Christian High School, Hudsonville High School, Owosso High School, Rockford High School, St. Joseph High School and West Ottawa High School.