Home > Algebra 1, Algebra 2, General, PreCalculus > Roller Coaster Fun

Roller Coaster Fun

The STEM academy at my school is starting a Science Olympiad team this year.  To recruit members, the engineering teacher and I collaborated for a roller coaster project during class.  We took our students to the auditorium and put them in groups of three or four.  We gave them a handout explaining the details of the activity.  The students were asked to create a mock roller coaster using the supplies they were given.  They were told the roller coaster would be evaluated using the following equation:

The students had to first discuss how each of the variables in the equation would affect the final score.  The goal was to achieve the highest score, while creating an aesthetically pleasing roller coaster.  After the student finished the roller coaster, they were asked to create their own equations that would give them a higher score.  They had to defend why they weighted each item as they did and why they put it in the numerator or denominator. 

We supplied each group with a piece of foam tube for track, four notecards, four straws, a styrofoam cup, and a roll of tape, and a razor blade.  The students were allowed to use items in the room as supports, but not as actual parts of the roller coaster.  The passengers were marbles of varying weights.  The students had a great time and it was amazing to see the differences in  each roller coaster.  I definitely see expansion ideas for this project.  Next time, the engineering teacher and I will create a store for the supplies and make the students purchase their supplies with a limited budget.

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