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Upper School Physics Students Present Final Projects

Michael Berry’s Physics in Engineering students are ending the school year with a bang! “We started off this year with the engineering design process,” explains Mr. Berry, “which is: Design, Explore, Brainstorm, Prototype, Evaluate, Iterate, Deliver. Engineers use this process—either formally or informally—to design and build things. For their final project of the year,” continues Berry, “students had the option of refining a previous design (iterating), or engineering a new project from scratch in the last weeks of the semester.” Many students chose to design and build a brand new project, using all that they learned and completing it under a tight deadline.

Here’s an inside look at some of the final projects, with learnings and advice shared by our students:

US Physics in Engineering - minibike building

Building a 49cc minibike - Jaden F. ’25 and Noah B. ’25 
Juniors Jaden and Noah each took on the challenge of building a motorcycle from scratch. After purchasing used frames, they constructed a working minibike using a mix of used and new carburetors, brakes, engines, and other parts. “It took us about three weeks to complete two minibikes,” reported Noah. “My biggest challenge was the whole thing! My first motor broke due to incorrect gear ratios, and I had to start over. Talk about learning as you go!” Added Jaden about designing and building his bike, “This was my first time fully deconstructing an engine and putting it back together. My biggest challenge was the brakes. I couldn’t figure out how to mount them correctly. I had to go to eight hardware stores to find the right bolts. Then one of the bolts sheared off inside the drill hole, and I had to dig it out and start over. I’m still trying to fix the air fuel ratio.” 

Advice and lessons learned: If you are getting frustrated with a project and can’t figure out a solution, just pause. Step away from it and just think, then come at it again from a new angle.

Repairing a Pitching Machine - Alex B. ’25
Alex tackled repairing a pitching machine located in the batting cage at a local baseball field. “First, I had to figure out what was wrong with it,” explains Alex. “It was pitching too slowly, and only at one speed. By simple observation, I could see the motors were dirty. So I opened up the motors and cleaned everything. Before I put it all back together, I decided it needed to be rewired. But, after taking that apart, I realized I didn’t have a reference photo to rewire it! So I used trial-and-error and common sense, instead. Luckily, I just figured it out. Now the pitching machine works at all the pitching speeds, and makes much less noise.”

Advice and lessons learned:  Learning about motors and how they work is fun. Common sense is sometimes your best tool. Research more about how something works before you take it apart. At the very least, take a reference photo!

US Physics in Engineering - aquaponics

Building an Aquaponic Pond - Jackie I. ’25
Jackie designed and built a recirculating pond that grows both plants and fish. “It’s called ‘aquaponics,’ and it’s a system that creates a plant growing area above a fish pond. You can grow food like strawberries, lettuce, and peppers over a pond that houses edible fish. The fish feces provide nutrients for the plants, the roots of the plant clean the water, and the water circulates by use of a pump. I love aquaponics!” Jackie started studying aquaponics in middle school and built a system with his dad, which was his first introduction to bell siphons, water pressure, and water physics. “I wanted to build this project myself. It took me about a week. My challenges were finding the right materials, and correctly measuring the hoses. Also, my pump leaked.”

Advice and lessons learned:  Sometimes a task appears way more daunting than it actually is. Stay on topic, always keep working at it, because deadlines are always looming.

Other student projects included: constructing a physical model of a kitchen design created with 3D modeling software (Nora H. ’24); creating multiple apps that test your typing skills, quiz you on identifying bird calls, and an investment helper (Curry Y. ’24); and creating a word game app similar to Wordle (Yohan H. ’24).