Building Roller Coasters

Putting Newton's Laws into Motion in Seventh Grade

What better way to understand Newton's Laws than by putting them into motion? 6th grade students have been in their energy unit in science class for a few weeks now and a large portion of that time has been devoted to designing their very own rollercoasters.

It, of course, all began with lessons about Newton's Laws... what they are, what they mean, examples, followed by worksheets to configure calculations. Students then experimented through online simulations which allowed them to virtually build rollercoaster hills and experiment with the momentum the forces involved at each point on the hill. This allowed their thoughts to start rolling, and by this point, they couldn't wait to plan their own coasters.

A fun look at the final rollercoasters in action!

Like most good plans, these rollercoasters began with blueprints. Teams of 3 designed the structure that would hold the rollercoaster and then got creative with the design, keeping laws of physics in mind the whole time.

The requirements included:

  • A marble must take at least 30 seconds to complete the rollercoaster
  • A coaster must contain at least one funnel or cork screw
  • Instead of dropping into a cup at the end, the rollercoaster must be made so the marble comes to a slow stop at the end (or else passengers might get thrown off)
  • Extra points for exciting elements!

The structure was the first priority and took a lot longer than expected. Just when it seemed like some students were getting tired of the project, others moved on to designing the track itself, which excited the class to move more quickly into that phase.

Once complete, students from all grades came to see the final products in action! It's exciting to see the students' pride in their own work!

      

And don't miss this timelapse video created by one of our students to capture the whole building process!

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Congressional School

Infant through Grade 8 Independent School

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