Roller Coaster Design - Day 2

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To design roller coasters that evidence energy transfer within the system.

Big Idea

Students will be able to articulate their understanding of energy transfer into a real life roller coaster design.

RAP - Review and Preview

15 minutes

I call students to the gathering area and we review day one of their planning as well as the roller coaster research lesson we previously completed. Today, we are going to continue the planning process after I give specifics of the design challenge. I present a poster on the board, showing the steps of the engineering design process that we have already covered. The first step was, “Ask.” The problem posed was one of producing enough energy in a system to allow a marble to move from the beginning of the system to the end of the system. The other piece of the problem was that the marble must transfer some of its energy to something else along the way.

The second step of the process is the step we completed using a brainstorm. This step is “Imagine”.  Students imagined all the different designs that they could think of for a roller coaster. The third step that we are currently working on is the “Plan” stage.

I tell students that today they will be doing some individual drawings of their own plans. After they have had time to do this, they will work in their groups to choose a plan from the individual plans or to compromise and choose a group plan based on multiple facets taken from individual plans.

Before sending students back to their desks to think about individual plans, I offer them some inspiration in the form of selected videos of marble roller coasters. I offer examples using different materials, as not all classrooms will have the same materials readily available to them. Also, some classrooms will choose to offer choices of materials to students.

A selection of videos can be found at:

Guided Investigation

30 minutes

Before groups begin their planning process we discuss the engineering design challenge as well as the materials and time constraints that students will have for this project. I put up a poster for students to reference during the project. It lists the challenge, the requirements, and the materials constraints.

In order to meet the objective for this lesson, students must provide evidence of an energy transfer somewhere in the course of the roller coaster. Examples of energy transfer could be that the initial marble could transfer its energy into a second marble that would complete the course of the roller coaster. Another example of energy transfer, would be to create a spinner that the marble will touch and begin the motion of, during the course of the run the roller coaster. Students might offer different suggestions that can be noted on the board for reference during the design process. I reminded students that energy can be transferred to heat, light,  and friction, as well as, from one object to another. This reminder might help with the brainstorming process.

Students return to their groups where they will begin the planning process for their roller coasters. Students spend 15 minutes planning their own roller coasters. I offer two different spaces for individual plans on the graphic organizer. After 15 minutes, groups convene to share their ideas. I put on a timer for 20 minutes, for groups to make a choice about which plan they will follow for the group roller coaster. This may be a completely new design made up of elements of the individual designs for this can be a choice of one of the individual student designs.



Wrap Up

20 minutes

I call students to the gathering area with their graphic organizers. Each group shares the final group plan that they have sketched into their graphic organizer. At this stage this might still be a rough sketch that may need to be redrafted in order to be built. This is a time when students can provide constructive feedback to one another and ask and answer questions that may assist their colleagues in creating viable roller coaster designs.

Final designs can be completed after this discussion.