BILLINGS — At Billings Senior High School, two teachers are making headlines after being featured in a video for ‘How Ridiculous’ on YouTube. The video was just the first in a series of six.
“STEM is where it’s at," said Shaun Jones, an earth science and biology teacher at Senior, on Monday. "I’ve always been kind of a hands-on teacher and guy, so it just speaks my language."
What could be more hands-on than shooting cannons for science?
"It just started snowballing into existing," Jones said. "It became a real thing."
It isn’t an ordinary cannon—it launches bowling balls and is mounted on the back of a Jeep.
"(Craig Beals) and I collaborated like 4 years ago on a Jeep build," Jones said. “I can fabricate and build and he’s got ideas that need fabricated and built. So it just happened by chance."
The pair put their heads together and brainstormed the idea just for fun.
"I’m like, ‘Shaun, we need to build a cannon.’" said Craig Beals, an AP chemistry and honors chemistry teacher at Senior, on Monday. "Instead of Shaun being like, ‘I don’t know if that’s a good idea.’ Shaun’s like, ‘That’s a great idea.'”
The reasoning behind the experiment was simple.
"Really just to see if we could and see if it would blow up," Beals said.
After it was built, it gained major attention when Beals posted it to his YouTube channel.
"Other people started to watch it and I got an email from 'How Ridiculous'. I didn’t respond right away because I didn’t know if it was real," Beals said. "I did some digging and responded. Then no response from 'How Ridiculous' for a month. Then they responded and that led to all of this craziness that’s been going on."
The channel has a following of nearly 20 million and is one of the most popular in all of Australia.
“They were super excited to come out to Montana. Quite a journey for them to get here. When they were coming here they contacted another really large YouTube channel called 'The Slow Mo Guys' to see if they wanted to meet in Montana as well and shoot these cannons at things. They were like, ‘Absolutely.’ So they came out as well and they just loved it. They loved the people, they loved the scenery,” Beals said. “It was below zero with the windchill where we were, so they’d never experienced that. They’d never seen snow, like been in snow."
The crew filmed six videos in total with the pair to be aired in the future.
"They’re kind of staggering when their Montana videos come out to intertwine them with some other videos they have," Beals said. "We were with them for a week filming and shooting. It’s all in their hands now."
The first video posted already has nearly 2 million views.
“I think it’s a really neat thing. We weren’t allowed to publicize this ahead of time, that they were coming to town for a lot of reasons. But now, this anticipation’s been building for so long for us, and now that we get to talk about it is a really neat thing," Beals said. "Views on my little YouTube channel have skyrocketed as well, at least for now. So that’s just a neat thing for us. I think it’s a neat thing for the community to know that these people came in here. We’re hoping that they come back, that’s why we’ve saved all this stuff and we’ve got it stored up. If the videos do really well, they may come back and film more."
Now that the first video has premiered, the duo is thrilled to share their experience and are looking to the future.
“We got a couple world records we’re trying to break. One of them is, we created a category with Guinness Book that didn’t exist, which is the farthest bowling ball shot from a cannon," Beals said. "We’ve got that one and we’ve got the world’s largest explosive bubble, which we’re getting really close on those. So just things to help us deal with our adult ADD."
Hoping to inspire their students to continue experimenting.
“Beals has got the model, 'Keep on learning'. 110% behind that statement," Jones said. "So we’re just going to keep on learning."
To watch the video from How Ridiculous, click here.
To view Mr. Beals' YouTube channel, click here.