Floating Away with Physics

Connor Shore ’22 smiles while holding the balloon during the inflation process

The advanced physics class decided to cap off their year by launching a high-altitude balloon last weekend. The launch was the first of its kind in the history of the class and the capstone of an entire experiment centered on gathering data on cosmic ray muons.

High altitude is required to detect the muons and therefore necessitates a balloon capable of withstanding the elements at a high altitude. Muons are created when cosmic rays (high-energy protons) collide with the nuclei of atoms in the upper atmosphere. These muons are extremely unstable and usually decay before they reach the earth’s surface making them much harder to detect. By using a balloon to lift the detector into the upper atmosphere, more muons can be detected before they decay. 

“By raising the detector thousands of feet into the air, we can get much more accurate data than if we just simulated the muons using a computer program,” noted Christopher John Festin ‘22.

Christopher John Festin ’22 makes final adjustments to the gyroscope before launch

The project required weeks of building and preparation. Needing a balloon, the muon detector, and a way to track the entire package, there was plenty of work cut out for the Advanced Physics class. 

“I feel that since we have such a small class (12 people) we can really specialize on what we want to work on in the project and get things done,” added Matthew Narog ‘22. 

The launch day was an entire event for the physics students. The day started with a trip to Mr. Plusinski’s father’s cardiovascular clinic, Northern Cardiovascular Clinic in Edina where the students learned about the physics of ultrasounds and other medical equipment. After a mini physics lesson, the class drove out to Montgomery to launch the ballon. 

“It was cool to see how what we were learning in class can be applied to the real world” commented Mary Rillens Lee ‘22, who is interested in a career in the medical field. 

After a few attempts to launch the balloon, the third time was the charm. The balloon quickly rose up into the air and began its flight. Within a few minutes, the balloon was completely out of sight and was being tracked by the onboard GPS

Matthew Wooden ’22 celebrates when the balloon successfully launched on the third try.

After a staggering five and a half hours of flight, the balloon finally landed in upper Michigan less than five miles from lake superior. 

“Mr. Plusnski sai MAYBE the balloon would make it all the way to Iowa, now it is sitting 300 miles away in upper Michigan,” remarked Macalister Clark ’22 on the astonishing distance the balloon traveled. 

The class quickly made plans to retrieve the balloon over the long upcoming weekend in order to collect the data stored inside the detectors for next year’s class to analyze. 

Competing With Code

John Cummins ’23 smiles proudly after completing a calculation

Duluth is a place known for its harbor, but earlier this month, the Providence Academy Robotics Team saw a different side of this city in the annual Robotics Competition. On March fourth and fifth, PA high schoolers pitched their robot against others from all across Minnesota in a battle of climbing bars, balancing on beams, and throwing balls. Though limited to one weekend, this competition is the product of many months of preparation. And not all preparation came in the form of building or coding. Robotics Club is much more than building a robot: it is about camaraderie, education, and competition. 

Robotics is unique in that it allows members to use creativity and critical thinking to design, build, and enter a robot into a competition. Each year the club works hard to build a robot that is capable of completing several challenges laid out by a national league. These challenges change from year to year, giving members a completely different experience than the previous season. 

Providence’s robot in the middle of the construction process

“We have both a middle school and high school team, each builds a complex over a few months and then tests their robot against other schools,” says Micheal Plucinski, the PA physics and engineering teacher who has been running robotics since 2013.

The construction of the PA robot happens from December to February each winter. The first step the team takes is designing a robot that can achieve all the season’s challenges.

“Choosing the design of the robot can often be the most chaotic part of the season. All the members split into groups and brainstorm possible designs. This year, for example, one of the challenges was to make a robot climb up a set of bars. It seemed that each team member has a completely different idea on how to get the robot to climb and it took a lot of debating to finalize a design,” commented Matthew Narog ‘22.

The process of building the robot is just as difficult as coming up with a well-engineered design. There are many different aspects of building a robot the team needs to consider. 

Robotics Captain Nathan Hemmesch, ‘22, says “We need to divide and conquer if we want to finish the robot in time, this means we have lots of smaller teams working on individual parts like the chassis, motor, or programming. Coordinating all these smaller teams to eventually lead to a successful robot can be very difficult.”

After months of hard work, the robot is finally ready for competition. Each year all teams from the region drive their creations to Duluth to find out which robot best completes the task. 

“The Duluth trip is always my favorite part of the season. Seeing all the hours we put into the robot finally pay off is an incredible experience. Even outside of robotics, hanging out with my friends outside of school is always a good time,” stated Captain Christopher John Festin, ‘22. 

Robots compete to shoot balls into a bucket at the recent competition in Duluth

If you are interested in learning about robotics, the sign-ups open next fall for the 2023 season!

Longest Run: A Look at PA’s Ski Club

Twenty-six: the number of clubs Providence Academy offers its Upper School students. One: the number of PA clubs that include skiing down hills throughout Minnesota, venturing to Duluth, and nostalgic winter memories. While Providence Academy offers many clubs for students to participate in,  the Ski Club stands out with its many opportunities and accomplishments.   

What makes the Ski Club so unique? While other clubs have student leaders at the helm, the Ski Club is organized and run by a teacher. This gives the club privileges no other club has, from off-campus meetings to a day-long trip to Spirit Mountain in Duluth. 

Mrs. Colleen Carron is the organizing teacher who has been overseeing the club for the past 12 years. 

“I love running the club because it gives me a chance to interact with students outside of an academic setting and just have fun,” Carron said. 

Although Ski Club is one of the most difficult clubs to manage due to the need to organize logistics like tickets and transportation, Carron has done an exceptional job ensuring every member is having fun, but, most importantly, is kept safe. 

Sam Trombley coasts to a stop on a very steep black diamond.

“In my 12 years of running Ski Club I only have had to call a student’s parents twice, and considering how unpredictable some of the younger kids can be out on the hill, we have been blessed with such few injuries,” said Carron when discussing the difficulties of sending young kids out on the slopes. 

Carron’s hard work has evidently paid off. Another unique feature of the Ski Club is that it is the largest and longest continuously running club at Providence. It has been offered since the school’s beginning, marking its twenty year anniversary this year, and has accumulated over 80 registered members for the 2022 season.

Kira, ’23, and Melia, ’25, Cmiel get ready to load the bus after a long day skiing.

But perhaps the Ski Club’s greatest accomplishment is the joy it brings its students. Ski Club is often the highlight of many students’ winters. While Providence’s event calendar is often quiet during January, the club gives members something to look forward to nearly every Saturday. From the donut shop in Duluth to the feeling of the wind in your hair, Ski Club members have the chance to have fun with friends outside.

“I love going skiing with my friends and my sister. Having the school organize the transportation and tickets makes it so much easier to get out on the hill with my friends,” exclaimed Kira Cmiel, ‘23. 

So whether you are a professional skier or barely making the bunny slopes, Sam Trombley ‘22 put it best:  “Ski Club allows me to experience a whole range of different areas that I otherwise would most likely not have gone to.” 

Thanksgiving Traditions and Travels

What does Thanksgiving mean to you? To many of us, this word brings images of turkey, family, and Charlie Brown movies to mind.  But many throughout Providence Academy have their own unique idea of this traditional American holiday. From hosting a family dinner to going on vacation, the Providence community has a variety of Thanksgiving traditions. What do students do during this famous holiday?

The PAW’s Upper School Thanksgiving survey results

To find out in more detail what exactly Thanksgiving means to Providence Academy students, the PAW sent out a survey to the entire Upper school asking about their Thanksgiving plans and whether their family has any special Thanksgiving traditions.

According to survey results, travel is not a widespread custom. Of the 32% who said they did travel for Thanksgiving break, most stated that they only traveled a few miles to visit their family. In fact, most who traveled reported that they visited their cabin or the home of a family member.

Jack Lindberg ’22, one of the few students who did travel far over break, stated, “I went out to Arizona to visit colleges and spend my Thanksgiving with my grandparents”. 

A 68% majority of Upper School students stayed home for the holiday, but this does not mean they were bored.  Many had some very interesting traditions. 

One stand-out custom is Emma Kelly’s ’22 who organized a Turkey Trot (5k run) for her family and friends.

“Every year my family and friends usually run in the Minneapolis Turkey Trot, but this year it was sadly canceled. I love the early morning run on Thanksgiving with my friends and family, so instead of missing one year of this fun tradition, I decided to organize my own Turkey Trot on the Luce Line in Plymouth,” explained Kelly. 

Long-standing family traditions are another great thing about this American holiday. These traditions that are passed down from generation to generation can be a fundamental part of what Thanksgiving means to a family. 

Senior Jack Lindberg ’22 and his brother Cole UTV-ing in Arizona during their Thanksgiving trip

“Every year for Thanksgiving, my family does this competition for whoever can find the wishbone gets a certain amount of money. We have been doing this tradition since before I was born.” Ellie Millerbernd ’22 reflects on her long-standing family tradition. 

Whether hosting, traveling, or anything in between,  each family’s own special traditions and plans make their Thanksgiving unique.  

Providence’s Secret Sailing Team

“I didn’t even know we had a sailing team,” remarked Jack Lindberg ‘22.  Lindberg is not alone. Everyone knows Providence Academy has a football team, a volleyball team, a tennis team but many are unaware of the sailing team. What some people may think of as a leisurely activity for a nice day on the lake is a fiercely competitive and physically demanding sport, as PA students Connor Shore ’22 and Casey Taylor ’26 can attest.

Connor Shore ’22 and his crew head out for his second race of the day at last Saturday’s regatta.

With only these two participants, to achieve a full team, Providence co-ops with Wayzata. Due to the small size of the team many are unaware of its existence.

A regatta, the official term for a sailing race, is not as simple as you might think. 

“I wish it was as easy as a simple race across the lake!” remarked Connor Shore ‘22.

In reality, it is a multi lap race around 3 or more buoys. The first buoy the sailors must round is always against the wind, so competitors need to zig-zag to catch wind in order to reach the buoy first. After returning to the starting line and rounding another buoy, they do the entire thing again. 

Sailors are divided into two fleets, A and B, and take turns competing in the six or more races in a regatta, accumulating points each time.

The A fleet poses for a picture between their races last Saturday, September 25.

Since all sailors have the same boats and are subject to the same wind conditions, many skills must be mastered to gain an advantage over fellow competitors. They must plot a course which allows them to catch the most wind. Sailors must also manage the weight distribution in their boat in order to keep it flat. And, of course, crew members must keep the vessel in seaworthy condition, making sure it isn’t taking on water, or dragging weeds.

“I once lost a race because I was dragging a forest of lake weed on my centerboard, ” sailing veteran Shore humorously recalled. 

Sailing presents coaches with unique challenges as well.

Jackson Connel, one of the Sailing Coaches for Wayzata, commented, “What I actually find most difficult about being a sailing coach is teaching the new kids all the sailing lingo. We have our own language out on the water, and getting the newbies adjusted to it can be quite a challenge.”

Even after becoming versed in the language and developing their skills, sailors rarely sail the same boat twice, thus have to acclimate themselves to a new vessel each regatta. Some races allow them to bring their own boat, but most of the time they are randomly assigned to boats they have never raced in before. Though the boats are technically the same, sailors overwhelmingly prefer their own boats. 

“[Having to sail someone else’s boat] is like needing to wear someone else’s cleats for each soccer game,” commented Shore. 

Despite being such a small team, and all the challenges sailing presents, sailors can’t recommend their sport enough! They hope that one day Providence will have enough sailors to form their own team.