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Physics Force comes to Friend

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Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 9:05 am

Friend Public Schools elementary and middle school students were on the edge of their seats on Nov. 16 during the Physics Force show done by Hank Ryan of Arden Hills, Minn. 

The show consisted of a number of demonstrations and experiments that allowed the students to see how physics is a part of their daily lives.

“There is a little bit of physics in everything. You have to understand how the world we live in works,” Ryan said.

During the show, Ryan reviewed friction, air pressure,  projectile motion, mass,  collisions and the Bernoulli effect by using age appropriate demonstrations.

Ryan has been a member of the Physics Force since its first show in 1985.

“The idea for the show began 30 years ago when my friend, Jon Barber, and I attended a physics conference in Maryland. We talked to a man by the name of Phil Johnson who shared his idea of starting an outreach physics program sponsored by the University of  Minnesota,” Ryan said. “Jon and I were both teachers at the time and knew immediately that we wanted to help.”

Being a part of this outreach program also allowed Ryan and others involved, like Ryan’s long-time friends Jack Netland and Dr. Dan Dahberg, access to all of the University of Minnesota’s demo physics equipment. 

“Jack, John, Phil and myself started the Physics Force,” Ryan said. “We worked together as a team, but Phil had the ideas for the development of the six shows.”

“We had a number of shows so students could come their junior and senior year and never see the same show,” Ryan said.

The University of Minnesota approached the Physics Force members and asked them to redesign the show for elementary and middle school level.

“They said we were preaching to the choir. High school students were already motivated about physics,” Ryan said. “There were some interesting stats in Minnesota that stated when teachers chose a science experiment or project it is usually never about physics. The projects usually focus on biology or chemistry. We wanted to show teachers and students that there are fun things you can do in the classroom that have to do with physics.”

The Physics Force developed a lot of their famous demonstrations for the American Association of Physics Teachers. 

“One of our more famous demos is called the Monkey Drop. When we went to the conference we took demos from all six programs. We called it the Physics Circus,” Ryan said. “The demonstration became so popular we were invited to go to Germany to do it for a TV show. We have been to Germany three times to do the demonstration.”

The group has also performed at Epcot in Disney World and the Minnesota State Fair. 

Ryan and Netland are the only two original members left of the Physics Force.

“I will keep doing it as long as I am having fun,” Ryan said.

Ryan taught at Mounds View High School in Minnesota for 32 years. He has been retired for the last 10 years. 

“I taught chemistry most of the time, but I taught physics when they were in need of someone,” Ryan said. “Even though chemistry was my first love, I really enjoyed teaching physics.”

Hank is the brother of Jim and Jerry Ryan of Friend.

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