Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal ........... painting by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Middle School Physical Science: Roller Coaster Design: The Racing Roller Coaster

Warm Up: Speed, Velocity and Acceleration

To review these concepts, students either need to come  up with examples of speed, velocity and acceleration or sort some examples that you give them on slips of paper. Review any concepts as needed.

Math Problems: Speed

Speed is the distance travels divided by the time it took to travel. Have your students solve some speed problems, according to the level they are comfortable with.

Activity: How Does Mass Affect Velocity (and Therefore Momentum)?

You will need two balls of the same size up of different masses such as a solid rubber ball and a hollow plastic one, or two cars of the same size and different masses.
A board that is about 8 inches wide and four feet long
stopwatch or clock with second hand
smooth floor

Predict which ball will get to the end of the ramp faster, the one with more mass or the one with less.
Release one ball at the top of the track and have someone time how many seconds it takes for the ball to get to the end. Be sure to start timing upon release and stop timing when the ball hits a certain point at the end.
Repeat with the second ball, making sure that this ball is released at the exact same place as the first ball was released.

What force started each ball  moving? What forces stopped each ball's inertia or tendency to keep moving once it started moving?
What is the action force when each ball hits the pillow? What is the reaction force? How does this relate to Newton's Laws of Physics?
Why did the fastest ball travel at a higher velocity (get to the end faster)?
How might the mass of a roller coaster car affect the ride?

Fixing The Racing Roller Coaster

This time you are shown another metal skeleton which sprawls across an even larger area than the Snake.  This coaster has two tracks which are designed to race each other. One side has cars made from aluminum. They were expected to be the faster cars, but in fact they barely make it to the finish line. The cars on the other side are of the exact same design, but they are made of a mixture of heavier metals.
The first hill is 198 feet high and the second his is 140 feet high. Each of the rest of the hills is lower than the hill before it. The coaster starts at the first hill and goes to last him and then returns to the beginning.  
Can you determine the reason that the cars on the one side move slower even though they are lighter? How might you redesign the slower cars to make them travel at a higher velocity?

Other related demonstrations:


  1. We did a roller coaster once when we studied Florida, but we really should repeat it again.

  2. You mean a roller coaster curriculum or a roller coaster? Doing either again would be fun. :)


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