Marble Roller Coaster STEM Project
Have you ever marveled at the wonder of roller coasters?
Did you ever wonder how the cars are pulled up to the top of the coaster, only to drop down and go through loops without falling off?
Well, wonder no more! In this experiment, we will explore the science behind roller coasters and the law of energy conservation.
One important concept in roller coasters is the need for the cars to be pulled up to the highest point before they can drop down and go through loops.
This is because the cars need to gain enough potential energy to overcome the force of gravity and complete the track.
In addition, the design of the track is also crucial, as the slope’s angle and the loops’ shape will determine whether or not the cars will stay on the track.
In this experiment, we will build a marble run roller coaster using a roll of unused baby edge guards.
By constructing the roller coaster, we will learn how to create the necessary potential energy for the marble to complete the track and also how to design the track to ensure that the marble stays on the course.
So, if you’re ready to unleash your inner engineer and have some fun while learning about physics, grab your roll of baby edge guard, and let’s get started!
Build Marble Roller Coaster
In this experiment, you will use baby edge guards to construct a roller coaster and study the conservation of energy.
- a marble or bouncy ball
- edge guard (you can also use a pool noodle cut in half)
- packing tape
- Use the edge guard to make a loop, but don’t use up the entire length. Leave a section to be used as the run.
- Secure the loop using packing tape.
- To make a stable loop, you may need to tape it to a wall (we used a chair leg)
- Place the run section by the table edge to make a raised run.
- Drop the marble from the top of the raised section and see if it can travel the entire loop without falling out from the track.
- If it cannot, raise the run section higher.
Explore: How High Can The Loop Be?
Experiment with different loop sizes and see how they affect the run’s height needed for the marble to do a complete loop.
This homemade roller coaster is definitely one of the most fun science projects, but it is also one of the most challenging.
It is not easy to get it right the first time. You have to experiment with different height and different loop sizes to make a good roller coaster marble run.
But when you get it right, it can be exhilarating. That is exactly the charm of science experiments!
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The roller coaster is an excellent demonstration of the law of conservation of energy.
The total energy remains constant in an isolated system such as the roller coaster.
When you raise the marble, you are working against the force of gravity, giving the marble potential energy.
When the marble starts rolling down, this potential energy is converted into kinetic energy.
The marble picks up speed as it goes downhill.
As it goes up the loop, it loses momentum and slows down.
Some of the kinetic energy is now being converted into potential energy, which will be converted back into kinetic energy when the marble goes down the other side of the loop.
If the initial height of the marble is not high enough, the marble stops before reaching the top of the loop and falls off the track.
That is why the initial height needs to be higher than the loop for the marble to continue to roll in the loop.
To Learn More About Gravity
Here are some great books and activities on gravity for children.
This science kit comes with a 32-page book and a cardboard roller coaster you can build.
The book explains various physics concepts, such as gravity, mass, and weight. It also includes over 20 science experiments.
Putting together the roller coaster is a fun project for older kids. Younger kids will need some help as the model has many pieces.
Once finished, you can have lots of fun exploring and experimenting. Both older and younger kids will have a blast.