Honors Physics Final Project: ThunderGolf!

For my Honors Physics class this year, their final project was quite different.  Working in groups of three, students were required to design and construct a fully-functional miniature golf hole for our class miniature golf course, ThunderGolf!  The course was based on the TV show The Thundermans.  No surprise there!

Background Information Provided

Geometrically-shaped minigolf courses made of artificial materials (carpet) began to emerge during the early 20th century.  The earliest documented mention of such a course is in the June 8, 1912 edition of the Illustrated London News, which introduces a minigolf course called Gofstacle.

The first standardized minigolf courses to enter commercial mass-production were the Thistle Thu (This’ll Do) course, opened in 1916 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.  The game was revolutionized by Thomas McCulloch Fairbairn in 1922 with his formulation of a suitable artificial green – a mixture of cottonseed hulls, sand, oil, and dye.  With this discovery, miniature golf became accessible everywhere.  By the late 1920s, there were over 150 rooftop courses in New York City alone, and tens of thousands across the United States alone.  This American minigolf boom of the early 20th century came to an end during the economic depression of the late 1930s.  National Miniature Golf Day is celebrated in the United States on the second Saturday in May.

Your Assignment

Your group will design and construct one hole for the Marymount miniature golf course.


Specifics and Logistics

1. The hole must demonstrate three of the following concepts:
  • Motion in One Dimension
  • Newton’s Second Law of Motion
  • Conservation of Energy
  • Impulse and Momentum
  • Conservation of Momentum
  • Rotation
2. Each group will receive the following materials:

  • 5 foot x 5 foot wooden square (border for your hole, constructed for you by the maintenance department)
  • Tee
  • Test golf ball and club
  • Flag for your hole
  • Brown craft paper
3. The hole should be split into two parts.  The first part should be where you put the ball and putt it; the ball should then interact with something.  The ball should then leave this area of interaction and head to the hole.

4. Your final design must be tested and operational by Tuesday, May 23.  Your documentation and data analysis will be due during the final exam period.


Steps to Success
1. Select two physics concepts that the hole must address, as per the following list


Select one physics concept from the two options below.
Impulse and Momentum
Select one physics concept from the two options below.
Conservation of Energy
Conservation of Momentum
Select one physics concept from the two options below.
Newton’s Laws of Motion
2. Select the theme for the hole:
  • Splatburger
  • Hiddenville High
  • Max’s Lair
  • Wong’s Pizza Palace
  • Thundermans Living Room/Kitchen/Porch/Driveway
  • Metroburg
3. Select the hole number.  Use the map to determine its location in the Alumnae Parlor.
4. You have a budget of $50 for supplies.
Virtual Planning
1. In TinkerCad or Google Sketchup, create a virtual representation of the hole.
2. Start with a 5’ x 5’ square.
3. Remember that a game player will putt the ball, the ball must do something or interact with something, and then approach the hole.
4. Where you place the tee and where you place the hole is up to you.
5. You need to consider what that interaction will be.  The interact must demonstrate one (or more) of the physics concepts you selected.
6. For suggestions, go to Amazon.com and search for My Mini Golf.  You may not just buy parts.
7. You may also wish to research existing holes at existing minigolf courses and see how you could use those holes as a model for your own minigolf hole.
Physical Planning
1. The sketch for the hole is due by Friday, April 21.  Submit your sketch to Mr. Walters for review.  Indicate how the hole demonstrates the physics concepts you selected.
2. Once your sketch has been reviewed, you will need to determine which materials you need as well as their dimensions.
3. You should opt for wood (cheap wood works best) as opposed to cardboard.
4. You will need a motor (and learn how to program it) if something needs to rotate.
5. Submit your order by Monday, May 1.
Physical Design, Setup and Testing
1. Lay out the large butcher paper to form a 6’ x 6’ square.
2. Lay your 5’ x 5’ frame over the square and trace it out.
3. In the Idea Lab (or at home), construct the interactive part of the hole.
4. Once this part has been constructed, set up the frame and the interactive part.
5. Test, test, test!  Play the hole over and over again to see how many strokes it takes to get the ball in the hole.  In reality, a player should be able to get a hole in one.
6. Make any tweaks or improvements to your hole to improve game play.
7. Determine par for the hole.
You will document your work and design process on the project weebly you used for your design project.
1. Revisit your Weebly page from your Physics and Social Justice project.
2. Create a new home page with your team members first names and images that represent both your design project and your minigolf project.
3. Create a new page for your design project and include a brief description of your project, including a photo.
4. Move all of your original project pages to be sub-pages of your design project main page.
5. Create a new page for your miniature golf project.  Then create subpages for Concept; Physical Design; In Action; Video Analysis.
6. On each page include the following:
  • Concept: hole number, hole theme, physics concepts, Google SketchUp/Tinkercad sketch, explanation of how hole design demonstrates physics.
  • Physical Design: description of how hole was tested and improved, documentation of construction process.
  • In Action: photo of final hole, video of hole in action
  • Video Analysis: description of video analysis, conclusions


Photos and 360 Photos

You can find photos of the course and course design on SmugMug.

You can find 360 photos of the course on Theta360.

Links to the student’s documentation will be added in a separate post.

You can download the project here: Rubric


Mrs. Wong seemed to be a popular presence in several of the holes, mainly because she owned Wong’s Pizza Palace and she currently owns Splatburger.  We tweeted a photo of the Wong’s Pizza Palace hole to her – and she tweeted back!

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