Learning about the Conservation of Energy through Roller Coasters!
This unit, the Physics students have explored concepts of kinetic, potential and gravitational energy through the lens of roller coasters. Physics classes have investigated how altering roller coaster hills, mass of the roller coasters and the intricate designs behind roller coasters changes its energy; moreover, they have used roller coasters to prove the law of conservation of energy. Through a series of virtual labs, the juniors have discovered that energy, though it changes form, can never be destroyed but will transform instead, ultimately resulting in the thrill and excitement of a roller coaster.
After exploring the virtual world of roller coaster design, students were ready to put their skills to the test and design their own real-life thrill ride. Before drafting their designs, students conducted research into the necessary components of a roller coaster. They drew on expert knowledge and actual roller coaster diagrams to create a “must-haves” list. Armed with their expertise, students then collaborated to design and revise blueprints to their own roller coasters, incorporating their crucial elements to create a successful roller coaster. This week, students have begun to actualize their designs; using just paper and tape, roller coasters of epic proportions are being built! Designs range from “traditional” roller coasters to entirely vertical twisters. The challenge is to build a paper roller coaster that runs for at least 10 seconds and includes 4 turns, while maintaining the energy for the entirety of its run. Featured here are designs in progress by Keontay Knox, Kiara Valentin and Steven Fitts, as well as Alejandro Morales, Vinny Devito and Eric Gonzalez-Meza.
As the Physics classes have discovered, building is not easy. Not only do they address and revise their design ideas, they will also calculate kinetic and potential energy in their own coaster. Additionally, they must calculate the dissipated energy to explore how friction impacts a roller coaster. Ms. Roland and Ms. Dryjanski, the Physics teachers, are excited to see how their students fare in realizing their designs.