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Rockin' Roller Coaster

permission for use granted by Jason Knutson

permission for use granted by Jason Knutson    Before introducing physics students to the Law of Conservation of Energy and the Principle of Conservation of Mechanical Energy, I let them spend a class period building "roller coasters" using common materials It gives them the chance to discover these concepts that are such an integral part of the amusement park experience. This activity emphasizes discovering the physics behind roller coasters through hands-on experimentation.

Form for submitting answers to questions for this activity.

permission for use granted by Jason Knutson   Objectives:

permission for use granted by Jason Knutson    Materials:

permission for use granted by Jason Knutson    Requirements:

  1. Students will not cut their pipe insulation.
  2. Students will create a working roller coaster from the materials provided.
  3. The roller coaster shall have at least one steep hill and one low hill. It should also contain at least a single loop-the-loop.

permission for use granted by Jason Knutson    Evaluation:

After a day of building and testing, follow-up discussion emphasizes the concepts of physics represented in the project.

  1. Problem: Predict loss of energy.
    Activity: Build a large hill/small hill combination such that the marble just crosses over the small hill.
  2. Problem: Predict where a marble must start to successfully negotiate a loop-the-loop of maximum diameter.
    Activity: Build a loop-the-loop whose diameter is as large as possible such that the marble just clears the top of the loop.
  3. Summing up:

permission for use granted by Jason Knutson

Lesson based upon an article titled Students Take Concepts from AstroWorld Rides to Build Roller Coasters, Houston Chronicle, section A, page 22, Monday, June 6, 1999. Permission to use roller coaster pictures granted by Jason Knutson.