Roller Coaster Design - Day 1

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Objective

Students to look at the mechanics of roller coasters and the transfer of energy in them. They will use this information to begin to design their own roller coaster.

Big Idea

Transfer of energy.

RAP - Review and Preview

5 minutes

I call students to the gathering area. I tell them that today we start the design phase of their roller coasters. I assign them groups. I choose my groups based on skills of students. I choose: (1) an ideas person, (2) a drawer, (3) a writer, and (4) a servant-leader (someone who leads from behind, not for the prestige)

Guided Investigation

30 minutes

Students will work through the online module at “How Stuff Works” website. This will orient them to the mechanics of a roller coaster and the concepts of gaining and losing potential and kinetic energy.

Before beginning the module, I ask students several questions. This is to stimulate thinking about the topic. I gather their thoughts for each question. I do not provide answers to the questions, nor do I comment on answers. I want students to keep these questions in mind as they learn. We will discuss these questions again at the end of the lesson.

The questions are:

  1. Where will you find the greatest amount of potential energy?
  2. Where will you find the greatest amount of kinetic energy?
  3. Will the roller coaster store anymore potential energy during the ride? If so, where?
  4. Will the roller coaster run out of energy?
  5. What type of potential energy is being stored by this design?

Class Discussion

15 minutes

I call students back to the gathering area. I ask them the same questions, I asked when we began the module.

The questions are:

  1. Where will you find the greatest amount of potential energy?
  2. Where will you find the greatest amount of kinetic energy?
  3. Will the roller coaster store anymore potential energy during the ride? If so, where?
  4. Will the roller coaster run out of energy?
  5. What type of potential energy is being stored by this design?

Students should be able to look at their notes and offer answers to these questions. I ask students if they can add to or need to disagree with any answers their peers have given.

NOTE: In order to add to something a peer has said, students should put their thumbs up. In order to disagree, or change the subject, students should hold their hand up as in a “stop” sign. I have a poster for this in my classroom that I use at the beginning of the year. Students can see it in the gathering area, and we refer to it during class discussions such as these.

Only allowing students to add to or disagree with each other cuts down on the repetition during the class discussion. It also makes students listen and think through what they say, because, they must have a reason why for adding or disagreeing.

Group Work Time

10 minutes

For the last five minutes of class, I ask students to do a visual brainstorm, in their groups, of some ideas they have for their roller coasters. I tell them that they need to have at least three different energy transformations in the course of their roller coaster. This stops them in their tracks a little. We have talked about potential to kinetic transfer, and kinetic to potential, but we have talked little about other transfers. Students can place another stationary marble somewhere in the course, to transfer energy to. They can have a moveable flap in the path of the roller coaster, they can move a car with the marble at the end of the roller coaster. These are just a few suggestions. I want them to think about both the design and the challenge. I use a visual brainstorming graphic organizer for this. Students can use stickie notes to do their brainstorming. This makes their brainstorms more interactive as they discuss them with their group and allows for movement of information without having to re-write or copy.

Wrap Up

3 minutes

I tell students that we will use these brainstorms in the next lesson to consolidate our designs for the roller coasters. I ask them to be sure to put them in a safe place until then.