Center of Attention

exploring the physics of handstands for a hands-on learning experience



Physics explains how the world moves around us. But physics is a challenging subject, and in a physics course, homework problems are about boxes sliding down ramps or pendulums swinging - not things that we interact with everyday.



Center of Attention is a handstand workshop that explores how to make a common subject matter interesting and relevant. Handstands are a skill needed for cheerleading, and a new physics spin was introduced to create a multi-disciplinary and multi-sensory learning experience for a local high school cheerleading squad.



Experience Design, Workshop Design



Columbia Secondary School Cheerleading Squad

(New York, NY)



Emilie Baltz



8 weeks (2017)





physics and the body

As an extension of an earlier thesis project, Cue + A, I wanted to see how a student question could be developed into a workshop.  As a physics student, I was always curious how the material could be applied to something that affected my everyday life. One of the questions that has remained is about finding the center of mass on the human body. Using the standard equation for center of mass, I was able to derive an equation specific to my workshop for finding the balance point on the human body.


the physics


center of mass, explained

Center of mass is a physics concept that represents a point that gravity acts down upon. But in more everyday terms, center of mass can be thought of as the balance point of an object. In a physics classroom, the center of mass is usually referenced for objects such as a box, or perhaps a pendulum. But there can be real application when looking at the center of mass in the body, and how it can be used to improve balance and body positioning in sports or movement-based activities.



Handstands are a body position that is easy to analyze - the body is stacked in a straight line. At the same time, when in a handstand position, it is possible to feel whether or not the body is balanced, more so than balancing on the feet for an opportunity to feel balance, rather than just talk about it.


Workshop Overview

don't worry, there's a worksheet.

Participants were provided with a worksheet, detailing out step by step instructions with equations and explanations.

Click the button below to access the full pdf.




center of attention

Watch the final experience in the video below. Special thanks to teacher and cheer coach Colette Young, and the Columbia Secondary School cheerleading squad.


prototyping and testing


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