Climbing Kilimanjaro in the Name of Science

Physics is a natural science involving the study of matter and motion.  So here’s a simple equation: with one man and one backpack, how much energy does it take to climb 19,500 feet?

Douglas Alexander is solving that equation one step at a time.  In the stairwells of his school parking garage, you’ll find the Loyola physics student training to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  He says, “The route that I want to take is called the Lemosho route and it approaches Kilimanjaro from the West and the reason I chose that route is because it's the longest way to go up the mountain.”

Facing extreme altitude, it'll give Douglas' body more time to adjust.  Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and it's among the world's highest above surrounding terrain.  “That's what usually keeps people from reaching the top is issues related to altitude,” says Douglas.  “So by taking my time getting up the mountain, that’ll improve my chances of actually reaching the summit.”

Douglas' climb is about more than personal accomplishment.  He's also raising money to buy science equipment for schools.  His campaign is called "Climbing Kilimanjaro for the Physics of Tomorrow."  When Douglas started contacting area public and charter high schools, he realized most physics programs didn't have even the most basic pieces of equipment, such as a ballistic pendulum, force table, resonance tube and scale.  Douglas estimates it'll cost $10,000 to outfit classrooms with these simple tools.

"If I can get to that goal, I’ll have enough to put three pieces of physics equipment in every public and charter school in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.”  He may also inspire future students to follow in his footsteps, translating textbook physics into real-world equations.

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If you'd like to donate to Douglas' campaign, visit: http://www.nolaphysics.org/