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Wheel power

Trinity students get alternative spin on physical education during roller-skating class

By Dustin Coleman

February 2010 - Mark Lewis, associate professor of computer science, frequently teaches courses on algorithm design, solar system astronomy, and programming logic. He also has collaborated on a NASA-funded project that studied the rings of Saturn.

So how does he spend his Tuesday afternoons?

He roller skates.

More specifically, he teaches PHED 1137, a physical education course for Trinity students to learn the basics of roller skating. The course, in its fourth year, fulfills Trinity’s lifetime fitness requirement and is taught at the Rollercade, a retro-style rink off of San Pedro Avenue in San Antonio.

“I’ve been skating for a long time and started coming out here (Rollercade) years ago,” said Professor Lewis, who received bachelor's degrees in computer science and physics from Trinity. “On occasion, students would come with me, and they told me that I should teach a roller-skating class.”

Professor Lewis said he didn’t think he was qualified since he didn’t have a degree in physical education or roller skating. But after he approached the chair of the physical education department, he discovered that he was in fact qualified under the requirements.

“Roller skating is a fun, low-impact physical activity that is great for getting in shape or maintaining fitness. Because of the way you do it, skating is much lower impact than jogging or even walking — assuming you don't fall,” Professor Lewis said. “In addition, the most significant part of skating is balance, which is critically important for people, especially as they age."

Students are graded on how well they can skate the length of the rink backwards, skate on one foot for five seconds, change from skating forward to backward while in motion, among other tests.

"I used to roller skate or roller blade all over my hometown with my friend before I got a car," said Bri McGlamory, a senior and religion major who is taking the course this semester. "I've actually already learned a lot of new skills. I could never skate backwards, and I can do that pretty well. And it's also just a lot of fun and a new way to exercise."

And are Professor Lewis’ computer science, physics, and rolling skating expertise comparable in any way?

"The only real difference between skates and normal shoes is that the skates take away friction in one direction. This makes things like conservation of momentum and Newton's third law far more obvious than they normally are," Mr. Lewis said. “This not only comes into play when describing skating, it is also helpful as demonstration material when trying to get physics students to understand these physical laws."

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