ThunderGolf! Students as Miniature Golf Course Designers

As a physics student, how would you like to best represent your knowledge of various physics concepts and problems? By taking a lengthy exam or by applying what you have learned to real-life situations? For the students in Eric Walters’ Honors Physics class at Marymount School of New York, the choice was clear: a project. Their project: build a miniature golf course!

Working in small groups, students spent four weeks designing and testing miniature golf holes that demonstrated, at a minimum, three of the following physics concepts: kinematics, projectile motion, Newton’s laws of motion, conservation of energy, impulse and momentum or rotation. It was not as easy as it looked! Using the engineering design process, students quickly learned that their initial designs may not “play as intended” and that a significant amount of tinkering and redesign was required. Students documented the entire design process through pictures and videos and, in their final application of physics, were required to calculate the velocity of the ball just as it reached the hole. Project photos may be found at:

ThunderGolf, a fully-functional six-hole course, based on the popular Nickelodeon TV show, The Thundermans, opened just before Memorial Day for a limited engagement to members of the Marymount community. The cost of play was $1 and the students raised over $200 to support the work of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Zimbabwe. To quote one student, “This project forced us to think outside the box and to think very creatively: something I love to do.”

Does your school do something similar?

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