Roller Coasters & Energy!


Warning! In order to complete this webquest, read EVERYTHING. If, after reading everything, you are still unclear about a step, see me.What's the best part of an amusement park? While some might say cotton candy, churros, or water rides, I believe the best part of amusement parks are the humongous roller coasters. The bigger the better!! Why Roller Coasters? Because they're awesome thrill-seeking, scream-provoking, vomit-inducing machines. Even though these rides feel dangerous, they're actually very safe inventions designed to feel as if you're breaking all rules of science. Are they? Of course not, physics plays a huge role in the design, motion, & fun of roller coasters.

Your Goal: Learn about different types of energy involved with rollercoasters, BUILD a rollercoaster with 2 loops and 2 hills, and create a Coaster Poster that demonstrates your knowledge of the basic physics behind roller coasters, specifically motion, forces, and the transfer of energy.

Part 1 : Roller Coaster History: Watch Link/ download Videos 1 and write 2 bullet points about something you learned!

Part 2 : Roller Coaster Records: Answer these questions: click here for web information
Height Rankings: Tallest Steel:______________________ Tallest Wooden:________________________
Speed Rankings: Fastest Steel: _____________________ Fastest Wooden:___________________________

Part 3 : Roller Coaster Elements: : Click here for web information /click here for Watch Link/ download Video 2
Batwing   Butterfly Inversion   Camelback  Cobra Roll   Corkscrew   Hammerhead Turn   Heartline Roll  
Horseshoe   Immelmann Loop   Pretzel Loop   Raven Turn   Sea Serpent Roll   Top Hat
List your FAVORITE 3 elements. Describe what is so cool about each: Draw your favorite element too.

Want some cool Roller Coasters? Check out these cool coasters! 
Video Notes: click on Video number in the video folder. Write 2 notes
Kingda Ka Roller Coaster  Watch Link/ download Video 3




From the front seat!  Watch Link/ download Video 4

 Time Warp: RollerCoasters Watch Link/ download Video 5


Physics Fundamentals & Discover Channel Roller Coaster Engineering Watch Link/ download Video 6: 3 bullet points
......................After watching the videos, what would your dream rollercoaster look like? Draw it:





Terms to know Remember Newton's 2nd Law? ..Remember acceleration??
............................yeah.... that's what I thought.. :)
Use your own words to define the following terms

Click here for definition help
or Use Google to help

Acceleration: click here Centripetal Force : click here G (force) : click here
Newton’s 2nd Law : click here Kinetic Energy (KE): click here Potential Energy (PE) : click here
Need some more help on those terms? Watch these videos and see if they help!
.........Physics of Roller Coaster – Energy
   What is potential energy?        What is kinetic energy?       Watch these & Write 2 bullet points for each!
How RollerCoasters Work
Watch Link/ download Video 7

Eureka: Potential Energy
Watch Link/ download
Video 8

    Eureka: Kinetic Energy
Watch Link/ download
Video 9

BrainPOP   Watch: Potential Energy (PE) & Kinetic Energy (KE) Answer the questions below:
1. KE & PE are the 2 types of energy that relate to:
a. Change   b. Friction   c. Density   d. Motion
2. Which object has the most PE? A ball:
a. resting on the ground    b. thrown at 100 mph
c. on top of a refrigerator   d. resting on a cliff
3. When does a yo-yo have the most PE? When it’s:
a) at its highest point  
b) at its lowest point  
c) moving at top speed
4. When is PE transformed into KE? When an object
a. at rest is lifted to a higher elevation    
b. at rest remains at rest
c. at rest is put into motion    
d. in motion is stopped and put at rest
5. Which is the best synonym for PE?
a. Stored energy              b. Energy of motion
c. Energy due to gravity   d. Mechanical energy
6. The amount of KE an object has depends on its
a. Mass & volume     b. Volume & friction
c. Mass & speed       d.Speed & density
7. Why do object at high elevations have more PE than objects at low elevations?
a. Because the thinner air at higher elevations means objects have a greater potential to move fast
b. Because gravity gives objects at high elevations the potential to fall much further
8. Which of the following has the most KE?
a. A car traveling at 80 kph         b. A tractor-trailer traveling at 80 kph
c. A cheetah running at 80 kph   d. A motorcycle traveling at 80 kph
9. When is KE transferred from object to object? When:
a. Those objects pass one another
b. Those objects collide
c. the first object outweighs the second object
d. the 1st object has more PE than the 2nd object
10. There is a finite amount of energy in the universe, which means:
a. Energy is destroyed & created all the time.
b. There is a limited amount of energy in the universe.
c. Stars generate most of the energy in the universe

Kinetic energy is “moving” energy

Potential energy is “stored” energy

..Potential energy can turn into kinetic energy
.....& vice versa.



Energy Math: Show your work!

1. A 12 kg dog is running at a velocity of 5 m/s. How much kinetic energy does it have?

2. A 5000 kg truck is moving at a velocity of 30 m/s. How much kinetic energy does it have?

3. If you lift a 50 N watermelon to the top of a 2 m fridge, how much potential energy does it have?

Want to check your answers? Click here

4. Your angry teacher is holding a 1 N book over your head at a height of 0.5 m. How much potential energy does the book have?

5. Two divers are standing at the end of a 10 m diving platform. The first diver, Andy, weighs 20 N. The second diver, Jim, weighs 30 N. Which one has more potential energy?

..................................Energy in Roller Coaster:
How does Kinetic & Potential Energy relate to roller coasters? Watch the videos and work with the enimations below to help you understand Energy!
animation 1:
animation 2:
.......Additionals Energy Videos
10 All of the energy in the universe link / down load here
11 Bill Nye The Science Guy on Energy watch link / down load here
12 What is Kinetic and Potential Energy watch link / down load here
13 Potential Energy_ Wile E Coyote & Roadrunner watch link / down load here

...................................What is Energy Conservation?

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but transforms from one form to another.

Think about clapping your hands – they start off not moving (potential energy), then move (kinetic energy), then make noise (sound energy) and perhaps even heat (thermal energy).

Energy never appears or disappears… it just changes forms (sounds just like the Law of Conservation of Mass!).
Energy Conservation Math:
The KE & PE before an action should always equal the KE & PE after an action.  
Energy Conservation in Roller Coasters: Click on the drawings below to explain how .
Did you know that roller coasters use an engine to power the coaster ONLY AT THE VERY BEGINNING? 
They’re dragged up to the top of the first hill, but from then on, no more external energy is added. WHY? How does a roller coaster continue to move through the twists and turns of a track if it only uses an engine at the very beginning?!  It has to do with Energy Conservation.
Energy of a Roller Coaster with additional information: Click here

Energy Transformation: animation below:.


Roller Coaster Motion
How does a roller coaster continue to move through the twists and turns of its track if it only uses an engine at the beginning?
click here and click here Be sure to answer this question on your paper!

Check Your Understanding: Here's another video to help too! Watch here / Video 14 Think you got it? click here
Label where on a roller coaster is the most KE, least KE, most PE, and least PE.

Designing Rollercoaster:   Designing Roller Coasters: Watch here / Video 15 Funderstanding Roller Coastersclick here
1. How does friction affect the speed of a roller coaster?____________________________________________
2. What other forces affect the speed of a roller coaster?____________________________________________

Simulator #1: click here 
Have fun with this simulation!  See how far up the “fear meter” you can get your design!

Build your rollercoaster on line: click here   / try this one too!
You decide on the following settings that would allow the roller coaster to achieve its maximum seed,
stay on the track, & travel the whole track.

Trial #1   Hill 1 = _____ Hill 2 =_____  Loop = ______ Speed =_____  Mass =_____ Gravity =_____  Friction =_____
Run the simulator with these settings.

Did it stay on the track? ______Did it make it all the way?______ Maximum Speed:________Maximum Time:_________   


Trial #2   Hill 1 = _____ Hill 2 =_____  Loop = ______ Speed =_____  Mass =_____ Gravity =_____  Friction =_____
Run the simulator with these settings.

Did it stay on the track? ______Did it make it all the way?______ Maximum Speed:________Maximum Time:_________                    

Testing: Now Go Build That Roller Coaster

1. In a group of 3-4 students Obtain supplies:   
6 foam tubes   1 bag with marble, plastic cup, measuring tape, stopwatch, masking tape
2. How long is the track?

Measure & record the length of the 6 tubes in METERS.
3. Make the best & most creative coaster that you can
 : 2 loops / 2 hills  
Spread out and find a good area away from others.   The end of the coaster should empty into the cup.  
Feel free to take pictures or video on your phone.
4. Obtain & RECORD measurements  
Measure each element (start height, height & width of loops, track length, drop heights, corkscrew lengths, etc.) in centimeters.
5. Calculate the approximate kinetic energy of your marble.
6. Calculate the potential energy of the marble at the top of the coaster, to the best of your ability.
    The average marble has a mass of 0.0055 kg.
7. Time
how long it takes the marble to complete the track.
Record the time here: _________  
Calculate the average speed of the marble.              
Record the average speed of your marble here: __________ (average speed=  total distance/total time)
8. Cleanup
Carefully remove all tape.
Disconnect your foam pieces and band them together with the rubber band.
Return all supplies

Conclusion Questions to answer:

1. What happened to the PE & KE of the marble as it traveled through the track? Explain.
2. Which force opposed the motion of the marble as it moved? Explain.
3. Does your roller coaster obey the law of conservation of energy? Explain why or why not.
4. What happened to the velocity of the marble as it accelerated down its first hill?
5. List 3 important rules about building a successful coaster.

Coaster Poster: Due Friday by end of Class

Include the following on your poster:
  • Coaster Name
  • Your names
  • Neat drawing of the coaster
  • ALL measurements with units
    • height of hills
    • height/width of loops
    • overall length of coaster
  • Indicate where KE/PE is the greatest and the least
  • Average speed of the marble
  • Discuss how the marble’s energy is conserved using physics academic language
    • Consider including your KE & PE calculations as part of this discussion
  • All other details are up to you!