69-year-old college physics professor goes viral for 'crazy' classroom stunts

Community college physics professor David Wright has an unusal teaching method. (Screenshot: Twitter/its_riccaa)

A 69-year-old professor at a Virginia community college is making physics enticing with dare-devil demos tweeted by a student.

David Wright, PhD, has been teaching at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, Virginia, since 1974. Understanding that his course is usually a pit stop toward another major, Wright wants to avoid regurgitating the “dull” experience in his own high school psychics class. “There’s a bad feeling about physics — that it’s hard and intimidating,” Wright tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “My task is to make it enjoyable and exciting.”

While Wright has always thrown himself — and any willing volunteers — into his high-energy lessons, his celebrity was mostly contained at Tidewater. But on Wednesday, when sophomore Erica Church tweeted a video compilation she filmed over the past semester, everyone learned Wright’s name.

“Y’all need to see this video collage of all the crazy things my Physics Professor did this semester,” Church tweeted, along with the video, which has garnered 1.2 million likes and more than 308K retweets. “He’s in his 70s and is still doing all of this for us.”

Professor David Wright, PhD, of Tidewater Community College in Virginia makes physics fun for his students. (Courtesy of Tidewater Community College)

“One, two, three,” says the professor in the clip before igniting a fire during a class on convection, when heat is transferred by the movement of hot fluid. “One, two, three,” Wright counts down in another class about Newton's Second Law of Motion with Wright using a skateboard propelled like a slingshot with a bungee cord.

In other clips, Wright is seen jumping up and down on a pogo stick wearing a “crazy” purple hat to show the principle of free fall, along with sandwiching himself between two nail boards. “I was demonstrating pressure,” Wright tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “If you only had four or five nails, that would be bad.”

Church emailed Wright, who has four children and seven grandchildren, informing him about the video, which she shared in a thread on Twitter. “Thank you very much for sharing that with me,” he wrote back. “It was an amazing semester, because I had amazing students.”

“I’ve never had a teacher like professor Wright or taken psychics,” Church tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I was so nervous and worried that I wouldn’t do well. I thought it would be this dreadful class, which to my surprise, it wasn’t.”  

A spokesperson from Tidewater Community College tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement that Wright, voted “Professor of the Year” in 2017, “just keeps getting more passionate and energetic with the years.”

Wright believes that his action demonstrations get students thinking about how the world works. “My mission is to make science understandable,” he says. “My knees are still good, and my students bring out my energy.”

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