I love physics. I really do, but this past week my commitment to my relationship with physics was tested. Mr. Evans, my physics teacher and the antagonist in this story, assigned our class our first ever project of the year. He told us to “calculate the angle a steel-ball launcher should be set to in order to hit a target two meters away from it on the floor.” This sounded easy enough; it was simply trial and error, I thought. All I had to do was keep on changing the angle of the launcher until it hit the bullseye. I soon realized that this wouldn’t work because it was not a calculation—a calculation at least needed an equation.
We had been studying projectile motion the week prior, so I knew I’d end up using some derivative of the equation d=Vinitial*t+0.5*a*t^2. That was progress, or so I thought. Another realization hit me: all I had was d(d=2) and I had no clue how an angle was involved in this equation.
Mr. Evans told our class this project would take one day to complete. Everyone in the class finished an entire week later. Looking back on it, I would’ve never thought it possible to mangle, manipulate, and derive an equation so thoroughly that it was completely unrecognizable from its original self. After many, many hours and many, many failures, we finally figured it out and calculated the appropriate angle.
When we finally launched the steel ball and hit the bullseye of our target, I felt such a sense of relief. Reflecting on it now, I have two takeaways from Mr. Evans’ project: maybe I don’t love physics as much as I thought and, more importantly, hard work pays off.