Physics, Science & Math
@ California's Great America
Contests for 2013
PSM Days Map
Click for PSM website
Physics, Science & Math Days
Imagine 10,000 students at California's Great America,
armed with worksheets, calculators and accelerometers,
all taking part in one of the largest physics lab
activities in the world - Amusement Park Physics.
Where can the experimenter step into the experiment and
subject him/herself to forces in excess of 3 G's? Where
can they experience zero-G and live to tell the tale?
Where can they verify the PHYSICS they've been learning
all year long? Where else but at California's Great
America on Physics, Science, and Math Days.
Students at California's Great America have access to
one of the world's largest laboratories for carrying our
real-world science experiments. While on the rides, they
experience a dizzying array of forces. Where did they
feel which kind of force? And ultimately, why did they
feel those particular forces there?
The beauty of Physics, Science and Math Days
lies in linking classroom theory with the reality of
what happens on multiple-g rides like Vortex and Drop
Tower. We encourage teachers to prepare their students
to make the most out of the opportunity that is present
at Physics, Science and Math Days. Choose
quality activities that will engage them and help them
to learn more about the science behind their amusement
park experience. That is why we've prepared this website
and why we produce the CD-ROM that is jam-packed with
activities, hints, tips and suggestions.
Dates for 2012-13
Teacher Orientation '12
October 6, 2012
PSM Day 1
Fri, May 3, 2013
PSM Day 2
Fri, May 10, 2013
Fri, May 17, 2013
order form is available from this website. It
can be filled in using Adobe Acrobat Reader or
Preview (on Mac's). Complete the form and submit to
get your classes signed up.
A Brief History
Physics Day at Great America was started in 1983 by Don
Rathjen from Foothill High School. Initially, he brought
his physics students to the park on a normal operating
day. In the second year, he brought three other teachers
and their physics students to Great America, armed with
accelerometers and calculators to study the physics
behind roller coasters.
Over the years, Physics Day grew until the park opened
up on a non-operating day, exclusively for physics
students. The number of students grew, and the number of
middle school science students attending the park had
also grown. Two separate days were scheduled, one for
high school physics, the other for middle school
science. In 1995, a third day was added to accommodate
math students who explore applications of mathematics in
the real world.
Physics Day, now Physics, Science & Math Days,
has been in continuous operation since 1983. It's one of
the only special days of its type where the park is open
just for students and teachers for educational purposes.
29 years and going strong!
A steering committee of physics, science and math
teachers develops materials that are published for
students and teachers, including these web pages and a
CD of resources for teachers and students. The committee
works closely with the park to improve these special
days, and conducts an annual Teacher Orientation. The
Special Events Department at California's Great America
works hard to make these days a success for teachers and
students from throughout Northern California and as far
north as British Columbia, Canada.
What's new for 2013
A new, large, woody is
making its way to California's Great America. It will be
the tallest and fastest wooden coaster in Northern
California. Click the logo to the right to see a page
devoted to the new ride which is currently under
construction at Great America. Photo, renderings and an
animated video are included so you can see what's in store
Note: The park is working hard to complete Gold Striker
before PSM Days. It is possible work will not be
completed. Adjust your assignments accordingly. A GoldStriker
worksheet is now included in the website that
teachers and students can use to begin analyzing this new,
fun ride. Check out the conceptual diagram:
Contests and Interactive
Activities rules and procedures for 2013 are now final. Click on
this link to see the 2013 lineup.
More of the resources that are appropriate for elementary
and early middle school will be in operation on May 3.
Kidzville rides, for example, will only run on May 3.
The park specifically permits the use of measuring devices
for determining accelerations and forces on the rides. The
devices, manual or electronic, must be tethered to the student or
they will not be allowed on the ride. Follow the link for
Many years past, Great America printed out a packet of
activities, shrink-wrapped it and distributed it with the
tickets sent to schools in the spring. Subsequently, the
entire packet was converted to electronic form and
available on a CD that was distributed with the school's
tickets. Now the entire packet is online and available by
following the "Curricular Activities" link above left, or
by clicking on this link: Activity
Packet. For 2013, teachers will receive the 2012
version of the CD. Updates, additions, etc. will be
available through this website. Please return often as we
finalize things for a great 2013.
A CD will still be distributed with the ticket orders. It
will contain virtually everything that is on this website
including the packet, but will also contain a number of
resources, videos, etc. that may prove useful to teachers
preparing their students for Physics, Science & Math
A New Resource
The physicsday.org webmaster has completed a re-write of
the AAPT handbook on Amusement Park Physics. This second
edition contains many very useful items for first timers
and old timers alike. You will see references to
California's Great America in the book including data from
some of our rides.
The book is available through AAPT
Software & Technology.