Reflection: Unit Planning Roller Coaster Design - Day 2 - Section 2: Guided Investigation


Note:  there are many different ways to provide students with materials to build roller coasters. The difference in materials really depends on the budgetary constraints within each classroom. For this activity I will provide three different options for teachers.

Recycled materials

Roller coasters can be made from many different recycled materials, especially paper roll, toilet paper, and wrapping paper tubes. These can be used in their entirety or cut in half for half-circle tubing run for the marbles. These materials can be attached to each other using duct tape, packaging tape, or scotch tape. Structural support for these kinds of roller coasters could be as simple as taping the structure to the wall of the classroom or the school hallway. These can be supported along the tops and sides of chairs and desks in order to alleviate any additional cost. Other supports may be the use of square tubing made from recycled cardboard that would provide a rigid support for the vertical structure of the roller coaster.

Pipe insulation

Another low-cost option for roller coaster materials is foam pipe insulation that can be purchased at any home improvement store. Again, this can be used as a full circle or cut in half to double the length potential of the roller coaster. This material is very flexible and provides a wonderful, smooth transition for curves and loops with in the roller coaster system, With out much manipulation. This material is slightly more difficult to adhere to the wall and or to any other supports used within the system. However using loops of duct tape or other adhesive material provides support that can be attached to the support structure. Links of pipe insulation can be joined using glue. is an innovative tool for creating roller coasters within the classroom. This product comes in various forms. It can be purchased as blackline masters in a digital download or on a CD. Materials can also be purchased already printed on colored card stock as suggested in the directions on the electronic download. These materials can be purchased for around $20 US, but additional cost would be incurred in purchasing the colored card stock. Each different feature in the roller coaster is color-coded according to its function. This allows students to easily pinpoint different places where energy might be transferred or used within the system. Structural supports are also provided in the form of rectangular prisms as part of the system.

All of these materials will allow students to create roller coasters with the same components necessary to show the transfer of energy in order to meet the learning objectives of this lesson. I find that the first two options allow for much more versatility in design, but for students who require more support these materials can be somewhat overwhelming as students must be able to see the potential in the materials prior to building the roller coaster. Whereas, the paper roller coaster process is specific for roller coaster design with each component color-coded as mentioned above.

  Materials Differentiation
  Unit Planning: Materials Differentiation
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Roller Coaster Design - Day 2

Unit 5: Roller Coaster Madness
Lesson 7 of 8

Objective: 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.

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