Thursday, April 7, 2011

Science of Disney Imagineering

Several weeks ago I posted about some videos we watched during an illness that were entertaining  to a sick kid but could still count towards school.  Now I've found a whole new series I want to share!!  We've just booked our vacation to visit the mouse in Florida and I had looked into their educational field trips but they just weren't going to work for us.  One link led to another and I discovered a set of educational DVD's put out by Disney that explains the science behind some of their theme park rides.  There was a period of time that I wanted to be an imagineer and of course my Schnickelfritz plans to open his own theme park someday--called Seven Flags (we've already started a copyright infringement lawsuit fund).

The videos give a foundation in physics and show that science can be fun.  Imagineer Asa is our guide.  He defines terms with cute stick figure cartoons and then heads out to the parks to show how the theory of science is put into practice.  Our first video covered Trajectory.  Asa defines several terms like trajectory, projectile, etc. while introducing his new invention THE CHURRO-MATIC 5000!!    This goofy machine launches sugar coated, fried snacks to hungry park guests.  Since we have discounted wind resistance (we're in his workshop) and the launcher only has one speed,  Asa  must alter the angle of fire so the churro lands in the basket.  Of course this is Disney and for entertainment purposed several churros go awry first.

Then it's off to Disney World to see how important trajectory is in setting ramps for the car stunt show at Disney Studios.  Another imagineer explains how computers simulate perfect trajectory (no wind resistance) in Toy Story Mania.   We learn that projectiles don't need to be solid object as evidenced by the hopping water fountains outside the Imagination pavilion in Epcot.

My son laughed himself silly, but he did learn as well.  The DVD comes with a bonus feature quiz and he would have scored an A- if this had been an actual test.  Fritz is only 8 and the video is geared towards 5th to 8th graders so I think he did quite well.  This is just an introduction to the principle.  We learn there are complicated formulas in calculating trajectory but nothing further.  In fact, we learn that humans have a natural ability to do this without thinking--when's the last time you sunk a basketball in the hoop?  You didn't need a slide-rule or calculator for that.

There is also a "Try It Yourself" lab experiment--in this case building a three man slingshot.  We'll have to save that for a summer water balloon extravaganza.

We're requesting the entire series through our inter-library loan.  Other titles cover Gravity, Magnetism, Energy, Electricity, Friction, Fluids, Levers and Pulleys, Designs and Models, and Animal Adaptions.  (I may preview the last one before I show him to see how much evolution creeps in).

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