May 18, 2021 4:25 AM
wwx and brenda banner do a science project
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Ms. McDaniels hands out the description for the final project a month before it's due even though most of the class will procrastinate on it for at least two weeks. "This is our second year doing this project, and I think it was a lot of fun last year! I hope you all have fun with it this year too. Lab partners have been assigned randomly; check the table on the back of the sheet. I'll be holding office hours after school every Tuesday if people want advice."

Honors Physics 1 final project

Your final project is to use what you have learned in class this year to build a machine capable of launching a standard golf ball as far as possible, plus a written report describing how your machine works and the physical principles involved. 50% of your grade (50 points) will be based on the report, and the other 50% will be based on the distance your golf balls travels on the best of three attempts, with one minute to make adjustments to your machine before each attempt. 1 meter = 1 point. Yes, distances more than 50 meters are worth extra credit! Testing will take place on the football field on the last day of class (May 3rd).

The rules:

* No buying pre-built machines! You must build your machine using standard raw materials from a hardware store. This means no disassembling an appliance, either.

* No explosives

* No gunpowder

* No chemically powered mechanisms of any kind, I mean it

* No compressed air

* No human or animal muscle power at the moment of launch. You may use muscle power to store energy in the system, e.g. by winding a spring or pulling back an elastic band, but you may not directly apply a force to the golf ball with your body without an intermediate energy storage step. It should be possible to launch the golf ball by pressing a button, pulling a trigger, or similar.

This project should be doable on a budget of less than $50, but if you need help affording materials come to office hours and we can figure something out.

The table of lab partner assignments on the back of the paper says that Wei Wuxian has been paired with Brenda Banner.

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Is Wei Wuxian supposed to be paying attention to this? Wei Wuxian is not paying attention to this. Wei Wuxian is doodling a picture of Lan Wangji in his notebook. 

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Brenda is stealthily Googling Wei Wuxian under her desk to figure out which of the faces she has seen every day all year corresponds to that name. Hopefully there is a picture of him on the internet somewhere.

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He has an Instagram! His Instagram consists of pictures of himself shirtless (he is very pretty), himself in cosplay outfits (all as female characters), himself on roofs and inside abandoned buildings and in other places that it is probably not terribly legal for him to be, random birds he saw, his neighbor's cat, him glomping a mildly terrified fourteen-year-old, a musical performance with the caption MY SISTER IS SO SMART!!!!, a science fair project with the caption MY BROTHER IS A MORON!!!!!, a bunch of makeup with the caption SHOPLIFTING HAUL!!!!!!, and himself FaceApped into a girl.

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Brenda is not totally clear on whether this is what you would expect from a normal person's instagram, and is kind of unhappy about the shoplifting, but at least she knows what he looks like now. She joins in the general shuffling around everyone is doing to talk to their lab partners. She is prepared to do the entire project herself but it only seems polite to give her partner a chance to participate if he wants to do that.

"Hi, uh, Wei? Or do you go by Wuxian? Sorry. Anyway, uh, we're lab partners?"

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"You can call me anything you want."

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That is insufficient guidance aaaaa. 

"Okay. So, um, do you have thoughts on how you want to do the project? I was thinking trebuchet with a counterweight, if we do a block and tackle we could get a nice big one . . . "

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"That's booooooring. She obviously wants us to do a trebuchet."

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Brenda is not used to thinking of "someone wants you to do the thing" as a reason not to do it. 

"Would you rather do a spring or something? I'm okay with whatever."

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"She said 'no explosives, no gunpowder,' and that's clearly a challenge."

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"I mean, yes, the challenge is the whole point? I guess she didn't say no electricity or no steam power . . . "

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"Right! If she hadn't forbidden explosives, I would be like 'yeah, fair, let's make a really awesome trebuchet.' But she specifically forbade explosives. And if someone goes so far as to forbid you to use explosives you should come up with the most bullshit thing that is, technically, within the rules."

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Brenda does not at all follow this logic but she is not going to take the precious gift of a project partner who gives a shit and stomp all over his dreams. "I guess I can see the argument that if she didn't say no electricity then electricity is allowed. And I bet if we did it well we could get a ton of extra credit. Except batteries are probably chemically powered--maybe a big capacitor?" 

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"Oh, I like you. --Wuxian isn't pronounced 'woo-zee-ahn." (He pronounces it like 'wooshian.')

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"Oh! Sorry. Wuxian. Got it." (She pronounces it correctly this time.) "Um, anyway, I think charging a bunch of capacitors with a hand crank should be allowed. I can go ask . . .?"

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He starts sketching on a piece of paper. "Okay, but if you ask, they might say no." 

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He gets annoyed at his sketch, crumples it up, and throws it at Lan Wangji. 

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Lan Wangji says something in Chinese. 

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"Love you too!"

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Brenda goes and tries to ask the teacher if electricity is allowed, but there are two pairs of people demanding to swap lab partners and a pair who already want an extension even though the due date is the last day of school and a pair where neither of their parents have any power tools asking if they can please borrow a drill from someone, and Ms. McDaniels recognizes Brenda as "that clever quiet one" and goes "Yes, of course, whatever you like" without really processing the question.

Brenda heads back to Wei Wuxian's seat and says "It sounds like we're allowed! Want to meet up in the library after school and come up with a design?" Hopefully by then she'll have figured out a polite way to ask if he's willing to chip in for parts and whether his parents will let them use their garage.

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"Yeah, that sounds great!"

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"Awesome, see you then!"

Brenda spends gym class having ideas and Spanish class sketching designs (it's okay because she labels them in Spanish), and is in the library two minutes after last bell with a couple pages of diagrams, a provisional parts manifest assuming a tight budget, a second provisional parts manifest assuming a bigger budget, and Fermi estimates of how much charge they can crank into a capacitor in sixty seconds.

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Wei Wuxian shows up fifteen minutes late to the library. "I made the designs in math class! So you can take a look at them probably."

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"Sweet, trade you." She hands over her own designs, which are still only labeled in Spanish, and takes a look at his.

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"...wait, you actually did stuff for the group project?"

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She can't be offended because she was absolutely thinking the same thing about him, so instead she just giggles nervously. "I--I did, yeah. I. Like science projects."

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