You don’t need to go to an amusement park to see a roller coaster! Turn a boring day inside into a miniature STEM theme park with just three materials.
What you need:
- ¾ inch to 1 inch foam pipe insulation, cut in half lengthwise
- Masking tape
What you do:
This STEM enriched activity encourages youngsters to be little engineers. Take the halved pipe insulation and create twists, dips, and loops starting at different heights and angles. Tape the tracks in place on walls, boxes, tables, etc. with the masking tape.
Then, when the kids have decided on their roller coaster setup, place the marble at the top and let it roll down through the track. Observe where the marble rolled effortlessly and where it may have stopped along the way unexpectedly. Adjust the track accordingly so the marble rolls all the way through!
Questions to consider:
- When did the marble roll the fastest? Why do you think that was?
- What were some places the marble slowed down or had trouble rolling through? Why do you think that was?
- How is this like a real rollercoaster at the amusement park? How is it different?
Why it works:
The higher the marble starts out, the faster it goes. Gravity causes the marble to fall, turning its potential energy into kinetic energy! The kinetic energy propels the marble through the track using inertia. An object in motion will stay in motion, unless acted upon by an equal, opposite force! So, what makes the marble slow down? The answer is friction and air resistance caused by the different loops, curves, and hills in the track after the initial drop.