Roller Coaster Research

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Students will understand some of the design elements of a roller coaster. They will also understand where energy is converted within the system.

Big Idea

Energy conversion in a system.

RAP - Review and Preview

2 minutes

Today, students will use all the information they have learned about Newton’s Laws, energy, work, and power to see how all these things play into the design of a roller coaster.

Guided Instruction

10 minutes

Students look at the board where I have a poster of a basic roller coaster outline an enlarged version of the worksheet they will use). I have terms, such as:

  1. Potential Energy
  2. Kinetic Energy
  3. Force of Gravity:
  4. Energy Transfer

I tell students they will need to think about, where in the roller coaster system, these terms will come into play. Students will receive their own copy of the worksheet to fill out during research time, and we will use the class poster during our debrief time.

I tell students that they may look at their notes from Roller Coaster Design – Day 1, where they worked through the “How Stuff Works” module. They should discuss where these 4 factors come into play in their design. In order to keep the marble rolling, student engineers will need to ensure that there is enough potential energy to convert into kinetic energy to allow for energy transfer and to get the marble to the end of the roller coaster.

I remind students that they can provide potential energy throughout the system. I ask them how we might do this in the design (I want students to suggest adding humps in their design to provide opportunity for the marble to regain momentum again).

Before I release them to work ion groups, I remind them that the biggest difference between their design and a real roller coaster will be the lack of chain lift at the beginning. Marble rollercoasters will need to start at a high point.

Group Work

15 minutes

Students will work together to label their roller coaster worksheets. They will define the terms on the worksheet so that they can justify their labels. Students can use the labels for more than one place in the roller coaster. When we reconvene as a class, each group will need to justify their labels.

Class Discussion

10 minutes

I call students back to the gathering area. I have each group show their worksheets on the document camera. This allows the whole class to see it clearly. Each group justifies their answers. The rest of the class can agree or disagree with the answers shared. After all groups have shared their poster, we make the class poster together. This will be an important reference poster for students as they design their roller coasters.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

I call students’ attention to the poster we have just made. I let them know that this is the sort of sketch I will be looking for in their design drawings, when they plan their own roller coasters.