Roller Coaster Problem Based Learning Project, Day 2

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Students will be able to build a roller coaster and calculate work, power, kinetic energy, potential energy and speed at various points of the coaster.

Big Idea

Students take measurements from their roller coaster to calculate different values related to energy.

Roller Coaster Building

30 minutes

The goal of this lesson is for students to be able to work with their groups to create a roller coaster that will give them data to solve for work, power, energy and speed at various points in the roller coaster. This project has two purposes for my class: to give students an opportunity to engage in part of the engineering process and to give them a performance task that they can show what they have learned throughout the unit. Students engage in constructing a real model of a roller coaster (SP2) and going through the process of trial and error to find what works best for students to work (SP6). At the end of the project, students are able to collect different pieces of data and use that to help them solve for work done by the coaster, power of the marble on the coaster's first hill, potential and kinetic energy at any point of the coaster, and the speed at any point of the coaster (SP3). This project helps me to see if students can apply what they have learned in this unit mainly concerning conservation of energy (HS-PS3-1, HS-PS3-2).

Students begin class by going back to their groups and their models that they created in the previous class. I give them about 30 minutes to finish up their coasters before they must collect data and begin work on their calculations in the Roller Coaster Report. As they work together, I walk around to monitor groups and test their roller coasters when they are ready. To test, I just make sure that the marble moves through the entire coaster and ends safely at the end of the coaster. Below are some picture of my students' final roller coasters. They collect data from these models. Below are videos of the coasters at work.  



After groups have finished testing their roller coasters to make sure that they work, they collect data from their coaster. They must collect the mass of the marble, the height at the highest point, the height at the designated point, the distance of the first hill and the distance of the entire roller coaster. I select the designated point as the top of one of the loops.


Roller Coaster Calculations & Reflections

35 minutes

When groups have had a successful roller coaster and collected all of the data, they clean up their coasters and begin work on the Roller Coaster Report. Since they are working with their table groups in a group of 3-4, I tell them that each person must write part of the report, so I should see 4 different sets of handwriting on the packet.

As they work the packet, they will be finding the following end products:

1. Work done throughout the entire roller coaster

2. Power of the coaster down the first hill

3. Potential energy at the designated point and at its greatest point

4. Kinetic energy at the designated point and at its greatest point

5. Speed at the designated point

They show all of their work and practicing with their equation one last time before the test the next day. I do not help them with these equations because this activity counts as an assessment grade, so students can only work with their own group members to complete it.

When groups are done with the calculations, I have them answer a few reflection questions on what they did well and not so well, what they would change about their coaster and what they learned about energy and roller coasters.

At the end of the period, I collect the reports and remind students that the test will be the next day.