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Published April 25, 2012, 11:30 PM

‘Angry Birds’ inspires

Lesson built on iPhone game mixes fifth-graders, seniors; explores physics, engineering principles
FARGO – Tossing birds at pigs on an iPhone is a lot easier than trying to catapult a kickball on a football field, but it might not be as hilarious.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

FARGO – Tossing birds at pigs on an iPhone is a lot easier than trying to catapult a kickball on a football field, but it might not be as hilarious.

Seniors from Davies High School and Centennial Elementary fifth-graders took to the Davies football field Wednesday to foster fellowship and pound some green pop bottle “pigs” in a test of physics and engineering know-how based on the popular cellphone game “Angry Birds.”

“This is embarrassing. Who made this?” joked Austin Espe, as his team’s red “bird” kickball flopped out of its slingshot cradle.

“I’m backing up!” one of the fifth-graders chirped, after another dribbling failure to launch.

Meanwhile, 30 yards away, Mackenzie Breedon of the Screaming Penguins team leaned back, both arms pulling their slingshot’s bungee cords taught, then let fly with a shot that made her look like a ringer.

“There’s a lot of hope involved,” Breedon joked. “I think ours is the only one that works. If this was physics, I would have taken the class!”

“Angry Birds” is played in several variations by millions around the world on smartphones and other computing devices. Players use slingshots to send birds flying toward shelters harboring pigs. The aim is to hit the pigs and rack up points, with each level getting successively harder.

Bringing “Angry Birds” to the classroom was the idea of Centennial fifth-grade teacher Lucas Steier and Davies counselor Vanessa Boehm. For two months, the Davies National Honor Society members have been mentors for the Centennial students, helping teach the concepts of levers, pulleys, simple machines and basic physics.

The fifth-graders built the shelters protecting the plastic bottle “pigs,” while the seniors designed and built the catapults and slingshots.

Fifth-grader Whitney Tufte said she was enjoying her science lesson in the sun.

“It’s better this way,” Tufte said. “It’s funner.”

“I’m excited about how they’re learning and the relationships they’re building,” Steier said. “These National Honor Society kids are the kind of kids I want these fifth-graders to emulate.”

Boehm said the Davies students get just as much or more back from the fifth-graders.

“It’s helped them engage in service and learn how to have fun with others,” she said.

As the day’s planned double elimination tournament got under way, Robert Kringler of Team Awesome pulled back a ball in his team’s slingshot, aiming for three bottle pigs protected in a wooden frame 20 yards away.

“For the glory!” he yelled, and let fly.

Amazingly, the ball bounced through the obstacle, not touching a single bottle.

Another ball bounced over, and a third rolled left. And the Screaming Penguins hooted and jeered.

But the Penguins failed to do any better. In fact, thanks to a rising wind and the enthusiastic bounce of the kickballs, the contest came down to overhand tosses and sudden death.

Then, from across the field, came the cry of amateur engineers everywhere: “Does anyone have duct tape?”

Another catapult had bitten the dust.

It was enough to make a bird angry.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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