Foam Roller Coasters

I’ve been a little delinquent on my 180 posts this year, which is kind of a shame because things have been a huge improvement from last year. I figured I’d catch up on some important successes (and setbacks) to have them on the blog, in case their of some use to anyone else.

I was lucky to get a suggestion from a Chem teacher about these foam roller coasters for a marble… I hadn’t seen them before, but they’re unbelievably easy, cheap, and awesome. It’s super easy to make a roller coaster that works and is impressive, and everybody wants to get involved. We used the coasters as a bridge from “Skatepark Bar Charts” to actual situations involving real stuff. In a more advanced class, I could see asking students to use slow motion video to calculate the speed and kinetic energy of the marble at versions points.

I cut a bunch of foam pipe insulation in half, then taped four together length-wise. Since we didn’t have room in the room to make anything permanent-ish, students had to hold pieces of their coaster in place, which got even more hands involved. I taped one end to the end of a meter stick, and the only main rule was that the coaster had to start exactly 1m above its ending point. I gave points for loops, large hills, and for “landing in a cup”, and the winning group got some fun size candy bars. But mostly everyone loved just playing with the coaster.

Here’s a slow-mo video of a particularly amazing coaster, than gave us a chance to talk about where the energy was going:



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