Cover image
Lesson

Roller Coaster Run

Strawbees Team

Play with gravity and the forces at work on a roller coaster. Build the tracks and structure of a coaster using Strawbees straws and connectors. Then test the design with a ball to build potential energy and release kinetic energy. Explore how different iterations of the coaster structures will affect the success of the ball reaching the end.

9-14+
45m
:
United States 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Energy
Engineering Design
Forces
Gravity
Student Journal
Guide - Newton's Laws of Motion

Overview and Objectives

Lesson Structure

When students go through this lesson in each section the objectives they will learn are:

  • Warm-up –Recognize the places and experiences where people often feel the forces of gravity at work and notice these everyday phenomena. 
  • Imagine –Explain how Newton’s Laws, potential energy, and kinetic energy create a thrilling roller coaster experience. 
  • Create –Create a simple track to roll and balance a ball. 
  • Build –Create a roller coaster with straight tracks and adjust to different heights. 
  • Reflect –Reflect on the factors that impacted the track, ball trajectory, and performance of the roller coaster design.
  • Challenges –Extend the roller coaster’s experience and connect the design to open-ended, real-world scenarios.

After this lesson students will be able to:

  • Apply Newton's Laws through the construction of a roller coaster.
  • Use data to prove or disprove that gravity exerts a downward pull on objects.
  • Build a track with enough width to support a rolling ball and not fall through. 
  • Create separate tracks that can be linked together. 
  • Exercise spatial reasoning with space and enough variance in height to hold the track in place.
  • Discover the effect of the height of the track on the potential energy of the ball. 
  • Tinker with the height of the track in order to ensure ball speeds down the track without falling off or stopping.

Structure

When starting Roller Coaster Run, you will be able to:

  • Recognize the places and experiences where people often feel the forces of gravity at work and notice these everyday phenomena. 
  • Explain how Newton’s Laws, potential energy, and kinetic energy create a thrilling roller coaster experience. 
  • Create a simple track to roll and balance a ball. 
  • Create a roller coaster with straight tracks and adjust to different heights. 
  • Reflect on the factors that impacted the track, ball trajectory, and performance of the roller coaster design.
  • Extend the roller coaster’s experience and connect the design to open-ended, real-world scenarios.