BRONXVILLE, N.Y. -- Bronxville Middle School eighth-graders applied the concepts they recently began studying about potential and kinetic energy in Jean Windels’ and Jennifer Zopp’s science classes to build marble roller coasters.
Using foam tubing, a marble, tape and foam cups for support, the students worked in groups to design their roller coasters. Each group dropped their marble on the tracks as it soared through several loops – the minimum requirement for the roller coasters was that they have three hills or loops – before landing in a foam cup, according to a release from the Bronxville Union Free School District.
“The goal was to design a track that will maximize potential and kinetic energy and allow a marble to successfully navigate the full length,” Windels said. “The students had to calculate how much gravitational potential energy is stored at the top of each hill. Then, through trial and error, they determined what the maximum height of the next hill can be.”
The students had the opportunity to get creative with their designs and were given extra credit if they included more than three loops or hills in their plans.
Eighth-grader Michael Randall, whose group designed a roller coaster with eight hills and successfully completed the project, said he enjoyed being able to think critically in order to come up with solutions to the challenge.
Following the hands-on learning experience, the students discussed where potential energy was stored in their designs and where it transformed into kinetic energy.
“I hope the students had a better understanding about stored energy and what happens to it when the object starts to move,” Windels said. “After they study renewable energy and simple machines at a later unit, the students will look into creating a device that could have some implications in the real world.”
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