Students build and test roller coasters in this inquiry-based fun filled lesson.
First students learn how roller coasters work and about potential and kinetic energy. Then they design a coaster that they would like to build. Then off to work in groups to build and test their coasters! I give them a series of challenges (1 hill, 1 loop, loop and a hill, etc) and assign points for each challenge met.
Materials: Foam pipe insulation cut in half and taped together and a shooter marble
Students learn about important concepts in forces and motion as they design, build, and test a gravity-powered car. After they build their car, they improve it, making one change at a time. I like to watch each launch, giving hints or asking questions and then letting the students brainstorm and decide what change they would like to make each time. Once the car has been improved as much as possible, students are asked to launch it from different heights on the ramp. They measure the distance the car traveled each time and then graph the results. This is a great lead in to learning about kinetic and potential energy.
Materials: cardboard from cereal and cracker boxes, masking tape, wooden dowels, wheels, scissors, graph paper, rulers, small saw for teacher to use on dowels, straws, and a ramp.
Students design and build towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows. First students learn about towers and how they get their strength. Then students design a tower and estimate how much of each material they will need. Now it is time to start building. We stop halfway into the lesson to observe other towers and learn about how triangles are the strongest shape with which to build.
Materials: spaghetti, marshmallows, graph paper.
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