SALISBURY HIGH SCHOOL
With football season and its gridiron heroes behind, Salisbury High School physics instructor Paul Koba each year challenges his physics class scholars to put what they are learning to practical use in the school’s annual pre-Thanksgiving turkey toss competition utilizing the principles they have learned about the use of simple medieval warfare machines.
Using the principles of slingshots and trebuchets, the scholars design and build their own machines in hopes they can achieve high school immortality by tossing a much-used frozen turkey the farthest distance down an athletic field behind the high school.
The tradition began back in the mid-1990s, when Koba found himself with more turkeys than his family could consume at Thanksgiving dinner, after he was a recipient of extra birds as a winning bowling tournament competitor.
Koba wondered if the extra turkeys might be able to provide practical examples of the simple machine principles he taught in his senior physics classes. Thus was born the idea of the turkey toss tradition which has involved his students for two decades.
Koba offered extra class credit to his students who would put in the outside-the-classroom effort to design and build simple machines capable of tossing an annually used frozen turkey the furthest distance on an athletic field. While the record toss covered the better part of a football field a few years past, Koba established an eight-foot minimum toss for the competition as one of the few rules for the students to achieve
He left the concepts on how to use simple principles of machines to the competitor’s own design and build ideas. That has lead to some impressive collaborative and cooperative teamwork over the years, Koba said.
“When we get out here and see the work these teams have put into this annual pre-Thanksgiving tradition, it serves not only to instill school spirit, but it provides practical everyday examples of concepts that might otherwise just be textbook learning,” Koba said.
“When the young people are left to their own devices, they can supplement their own learning experiences with hands-on applications they otherwise might not have.”