When Armstrong Middle School Principal Tim Bourne offered eighth grader Tyquerius Doss an opportunity to stick to a wall in a Velcro suit, he didn’t know quite to make of it at first.
He agreed, because it sounded fun. When the experience was over, he knew a little more about classical mechanics.
Among a dozen student participants selected for a series of wacky, sometimes messy, stunts, Doss did more than learn physics. He helped demonstrate Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion to his Armstrong classmates during FMA Live!, a touring hip-hop science concert event presented in the Armstrong gymnasium Friday.
Created by a partnership between National Aeronautics and Space Administration and technology company Honeywell, FMA Live! has toured the 48 contiguous states, as well as Canada and Mexico, since 2004 offering middle schools free concerts.
John James, with FMA Live! co-performers Curtis Grecco and Paris Fletcher, hosted two concerts at Armstrong, and broke down Newton’s laws between the shows’ student demonstrations. The troupe explained the laws’ terms and concepts in hip-hop songs over bouncing beats and introduced videos featuring a Newton-esque “talk show host,” who reinforced the concert’s lessons in a series of segments.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, believe it or not, so to marry the two things that I love and know that it’s inspiring a new generation to pursue jobs in science, technology, engineering and math, it’s great,” James said.
The second Armstrong show began as the troupe revolved a wall at the back of the stage to reveal a beaming Doss stuck horizontally to its face four feet off the ground.
“There you have it, Newton’s first law of motion: An object in motion stays that way unless acted upon by an outside force,” Fletcher said during the demonstration.
Doss said he studies basic physics in his Armstrong science class and prefers learning actively through projects and experiments. Because his momentum was stopped by the equal and opposite force of the wall, he said he learned about the relationships described in Newton’s third law by making the jump.
“Jumping up on the wall, you get stuck on it,” he said. “I learned about actions and reactions.”
Sixth grader Gordon Welch, 11, participated in Friday’s first FMA Live! show. He said he enjoyed learning through experimentation, particularly because it was at the expense of an Armstrong faculty member. Welch was on one of two teams competing to hit participating physical education teacher Tory Reeves with a payload of applesauce.
“I was shooting a ball at the target to get apple juice to go on his head,” Welch said.
Welch’s demonstration concluded student participation for the show. He said he learned to apply Newton’s laws of motion, but he wasn’t sure if an “equal and opposite reaction” might follow his winning shot at the target.
“I just backed away because, teachers like that, you never know what they’ll do next,” Welch said jokingly.
He said he loved the concert and hopes FMA Live! returns to Armstrong next year.
“It’s leaps and bounds over the other previous ways of learning and teaching,” James said. “Of course, a good way to learn is to read, to study and to take notes, but sometimes you’re going to get bored with that. So, you want to learn something in a way that you can relate, which is music and dance and live demonstrations.”