WRENTHAM - For most New Englanders, the Deflategate scandal ended the day the Patriots took home the Super Bowl LI championship title, defiantly taking their place as the football champs of the year after the debated controversy left star quarterback Tom Brady banned from the first four games of the season.

But for chemistry students at King Philip Regional High School, the controversy has continued in the classroom.

This time, they were the scientists and engineers tasked with finding an answer to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's ultimate question: Did Tom Brady and the Patriots illegally deflate 11 footballs before the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts on Jan. 18, 2015?

Their answer? Probably not.

As part of Ann Lambert's honors chemistry class, the 16 students took to experimenting with the basics of the ideal gas law, looking at how different temperatures can affect the pressure inside any container.

"One of our biggest missions at KP is to prep our kids to be citizen scientists," Lambert said. "This is a real-world example we can refer to."

This time around they didn't have footballs, but a water bottle with a deflated balloon on top did the trick. As the students placed the sliced off bottom portion of the container into a beaker of boiling water, they were able to see how the hot air traveled through the water bottle and caused the balloon to inflate. Seconds later, after transferring the container to an ice bath, the pressure left the balloon and students faced an empty object - proving that a change in temperature equals a change in pressure.

But the balloon test was just a stepping stone to allow students the opportunity to observe the most extreme cases.

To bring the issue back to Deflategate, students watched - and helped - solve calculations by MIT Professor John Leonard, who testified on the Patriots' behalf during the scandal.

Through an MIT initiative "BLOSSOMS," Leonard and other university professors, high school teachers and scientists across the globe film mini-video lessons relating to different STEM topics, making the hands-on lessons available to high school teachers free-of-charge.

Leonard, surrounded by the Patriots' controversy in his own work, wanted to find a way to make the real-world scandal into a science lesson for students.

"He thought it would be valuable for students to see how important science is for their lives and in understanding the world," BLOSSOMS Project Manager Elizabeth Murray said. "Even the world of football."

Students Wednesday watched as Leonard conducted his own football test, taking three footballs and blowing them up to 12.50 psi - the NFL standard - in a room temperature of 74 degrees. Next, he took two footballs and placed them in different environments: One in a -13 degree ice bath. The other in an oven set at 102 degrees.

Using the Gay Lussac's Law formula, students were able to predict the change in pressure before Leonard removed the two variable footballs and showed them the results. The cold football showed a decrease in pressure, while the hot football saw an increase.

And, looking at the Deflategate scandal itself, students were asked to guess what the final pressure of the Patriots' AFC footballs, which were originally blown up to 12.50 psi in a room temperature of 71 degrees, would be after being brought to the 48 degree playing field.

The answer? Roughly 11.32 psi.

Officials from the game measured each of the 11 footballs with two pressure gauges, measuring a range of 10.90 to 12.30 psi with one gauge and 10.50 to 11.85 on the second - leaving the calculated estimate right in between both batches.

Of course there are the sources of error: another change in temperature after the balls were brought back into the locker room, rain and playing time on the field, the accuracy of two different gauges.

But the students are convinced the change in pressure was simply science.

"If anything, some of them were inflated," junior Cole Ginter declared. "I don't even like the Pats but I don't think they tampered with the balls."

"I think it's interesting that the verdict went against the science behind it," sophomore Livvie Atkins added.

It may not have been enough for Goodell, but in Tom Brady's home state, fans are always on his side.

"Do we think that is enough to suspend Tom Brady for four games?" Lambert asked. "Of course not, we're in Patriots' Nation."

KAYLA CANNE can be reached at 508-236-0336, at kcanne@thesunchronicle.com and on Twitter @SCNAttleboro.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.