Using paper roller coasters with a class can be a fun way to teach the physics of energy and motion, as well as the importance of the engineering design process.
Here are three sample lessons which are aimed at very different ages. Please send requests, comments, or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calculating Potential Energy and Kinetic Energy of a Rolling Marble - Students will calculate the change in potential energy of a marble traveling between two points on a paper roller coaster and compare that to the kinetic energy that was gained by the marble during that same time. There is an optional extension for the students to determine the kinetic energy of the marble that is due to its rotation. The PDF form can be printed out and filled in by hand or it can be filled out electronically. This lesson was designed for students in a high school physics class, but could be adapted for other ages. Answer Key - with sample results. Actual results will vary.
Calculating Average Speed of a Rolling Marble - Students will find the speed of the marble in different portions of a paper roller coaster. They will also find the average speed of the marble during the entire trip down the paper roller coaster. The PDF form can be printed out and filled in by hand or it can be filled out electronically. This lesson was designed for students in grades 5 through 8, but could be adapted for other ages.
The Great Paper Roller Coaster Challenge - Students will build an exciting Paper Roller Coaster that meets specific requirements, using as little "money" as possible. This lesson will challenge your students' planning and critical thinking skills. It was designed for students in grades 5 through 8, but could be adapted for other ages.
Andrew Gatt built this amazing Paper Roller Coaster with the help of his sons, Daniel and Gregory. It was completed in December 2014 and still stands in their home.
Took a bit to prep and get ready but WOW my kids are so engaged and won't stop building!!!! They are coming in every extra second they have to work on it!!!! I've loved listening to the conversations and talking about the physics needed to make it work.
WOW!!! All I can say is WOW! Parents donated cardstock and students had a blast! It was a way to reduce the rollercoaster experiment from piping insulation and lots of duct tape to a doable classroom of fun excitement with just cardstock and tape!!! Wonderful!!!!
This was by far one of the best end of the year units I have done with my students. My fourth graders loved being able to work with their friends designing a rollercoaster. They were also able to learn so many different physics concepts and put that knowledge to work.