It’s Walk or Swim in School Physics Contest

Inside a giant contraption that resembled a hamster wheel, Esther Seale ran 20 meters across Fullerton Union High School’s pool Tuesday in 19 seconds flat.

The 16-year-old student and her partners, Rachel Jenkins and Loreto Hurtado, who created and built the entry, took top honors in the “Walk on Water” contest, which is the culmination of a five-week physics course.

“I just ran as fast as I could,” Esther said. Rachel, 16, explained why the device--made of PVC pipes with paddles attached to them that floated on a wooden platform on top of trash cans--was successful. As Esther ran, she would turn the pipes and the paddles would propel her forward.

“It can hold up to 800 pounds,” she said. “With the running, we got quicker rotation.”


Nearly 100 students participated in the contest, which for some counted as an extra-credit project. Others, including Esther and her group, were required to build their inventions as part of an honors physics course taught by Rick Gianetti, a part-time science teacher.

Gianetti, a retired Hughes aircraft engineer, also taught the special five-week course to dozens of other students to prepare them for the “Walk on Water” project. He said he modeled the course after one taught at Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills.

“This is critical thinking at its best,” Gianetti said.

“I did this project to teach the students how to build something from developing the idea to how to plan it, test it and fail, and try again. They learned problem-solving skills through engineering concepts.”


Another trophy, judged by an exuberant audience, was given to the most creative entry. The recipient: a trio led by Daniel Estrada.

The 17-year-old student rode a seatless mountain bike mounted on Styrofoam across the finish line in 47 seconds.

“The first time we tried getting across the pool yesterday, we sunk,” Daniel said.

“But we went through the trash at a Styrofoam factory and found enough material to add to make it work.”


He called the project a fun learning experience.

“You can’t do it in one step. You have to build it, test it and modify it,” he said. “You learn from your mistakes.”

Matt Dupuy, 18, who used a tricycle-mounted canoe that glided across the school pool in 22 seconds, agreed.

“You don’t get to do this in many classes,” he said. “It’s always easier to learn from hands-on experiences.”


Principal Cindy Ranii said she was impressed with the students’ enthusiasm. “It’s a great kickoff for what will become an annual event.”