Holy Roller Coasters

If you’ve ever wondered how to get a group of 7th graders collaborating on an interesting design project while also doing some complicated measurements and manipulating some physics formulas, consider the roller coaster project!

The 7th graders began the year looking at the question of how to power portable devices.  As they progressed through the unit, they became familiar with the concepts of kinetic energy (energy of motion) and potential energy (stored energy or energy of position).  After learning the mathematical formulas for both types of energy, they were given the task of designing a roller coaster for a marble.

After the roller coaster was built, they used what they know about measuring along with the energy formulas to discover information about the potential and kinetic energy present at various places along the roller coaster.

STEM (science + technology + engineering + math) = Roller Coasters

Science – of energy – kinetic and potential and the conversion between them

Technology – applying knowledge of energy to the problem of providing entertainment in the form of exciting roller coasters

Engineering – designing roller coasters that work – taking the marble safely from start to finish through uphills, downhills, loops and jumps

Math – using measurements of length, height and mass and time to calculate velocity, kinetic energy and potential energy

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