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Viatorian Hits a Homerun with Latest Physics Abstract

October 16, 2015

statcast imageStatcast, the new player and ball-tracking technology that Major League Baseball unveiled this season, revolutionized telecasts, and Fr. John Milton, CSV, knows why.

Fr. Milton spent 20 years teaching physics at Saint Viator High School before spending another 24 years at DePaul University, working with freshmen and pre-med students on physics.

He retired in 2011, but Fr. Milton remains an active member of the American

Fr. John Milton develops physics experiments with Mrs. Kumkum Bonnerjee at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep

Fr. John Milton develops physics experiments with Mrs. Kumkum Bonnerjee at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep

Association of Physics Teachers. In November, he presented an abstract to his Illinois colleagues that hit home after an exciting baseball season last summer: Analyzing the Physics of Homeruns.

Fr. Milton shared the science behind just what intrigues TV viewers so much about Statcast, namely how air resistance enters into the velocity and distance calculations that the homerun ball travels.

To put it into student terms, he used Microsoft Excel to calculate the ball’s trajectory using numerical integration gleaned from Statcast data.

Since abstracts presented at AAPT conferences are intended as possible student projects for these teachers, Fr. Milton intends to do just that with students at Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep, where he has served as a consultant since retirement.DSC_0005

For the last six years, Fr. Milton has been advising physics teacher, Mrs. Kumkum Bonnerjee, on labs and helping to upgrade their laboratory equipment.

“I really believe in what they do there,” he says, “so to be able to parlay all of my experience, feels good. It’s satisfying — and energizing.”

What really drives him is the success the school has had since offering AP physics to its upperclassmen, beginning three years ago. He continues to work to come up with challenging experiments for its inquisitive students, like this one.

Students at Cristo Rey St. Martin will have the option of trying his homerun project, using motion analysis equipment next spring, after they complete the AP physics exam.

“We have been recognized nationally for the number of AP course we offer — determined by the size of our school and percentage of low income students we serve,” says Principal Mike Odiotti. “Fr. John’s support and expertise has been instrumental in getting us there.”