Designing a Roller Coaster

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Project Description

Teams will research the history, design, and science concepts behind roller coasters. They will journal their work and following steps of the Engineering Design Process (Imagine, Plan, Design, Create, Revise) will apply their knowledge of force, motion, and energy conservation to design a working marble-track roller coaster. Teams will create persuasive writing documents to “sell” the coaster to prospective riders and highlight their project in a digital presentation.

Driving Question

How can we design a state of the art roller coaster to attract tourists to our theme park?

Entry Event - Request for Proposals; Splash Adventure Waterpark

Request for Proposals

The owners of the Splash Adventure Water Park are seeking proposals for a new roller coaster ride. This coaster must thrill riders young and old with unique design features that incorporate the best in safety and engineering while providing an unforgettable experience.

It's no secret that the Splash Adventure Water Park is in desperate need of a new high-interest ride. Attendance has dropped dramatically, resulting in the closing of the theme park area. Our goal is to attract roller coaster fans from near and far and restore their faith in our rides. The future of our local theme park rides on your ingenuity.

We will accept proposals in five weeks. Complete proposal criteria available upon request — serious inquiries only.

The Koch Family,

Splash Adventure Water Park

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Shambhala POV PortAventura 2012 B&M Roller Coaster OnRide

The Challenge

Create a working roller coaster model that:

  • illustrates potential and kinetic energy and the conservation of energy
  • uses mathematical concepts such as height, time, distance, and angles

The coaster must:

  • transport a marble from start to finish, landing in a cup, without human assistance
  • use only potential and kinetic energy (no electronic support)
  • include at least one loop or coil

The presentation must:

  • demonstrate a working coaster from start to finish
  • show an understanding of the scientific and/or mathematic concepts applied to the design
  • be no more than 2 minutes long

What are your "Needs to Know?"

The Engineering Design Process

Follow the steps of the Engineering Design Process to create your coaster. Students would journal throughout these steps.

Ask questions. Make sure you understand the requirements and all the available tools for your project.


Discuss and imagine what kind of coaster you want to create. The sky is the limit: imagine an ideal scenario. Research some other roller coasters. You can see some ideas here:

Draw some design sketches. Discuss what will and won’t be feasible and have a solid idea of what needs to be accomplished. Create more than one design idea and share with the group. Invite all members to share ideas. Select the best design and elaborate. Add important details, such as what materials you need, design considerations, label your plan, etc… Lay out everything you can before beginning the process. Have a firm concept before creating.


Apply your plan to the actual materials and create your coaster. Attempt to stick to your plan. Test out the project. Did your plan work as designed? What could work better?

If your project doesn’t work, improve upon the design and make corrections. If the project does work as planned, are there areas for improvement? What design details will make your project run smoothly and stand out from the other designs?

Culminating Product - The Presentation

The presentation must show an understanding of the scientific and mathematical concepts and detail the track from beginning to end. Your digital presentation is to show your learning and understanding, meant to sell your coaster though an engaging presentation.

  • Using the Keynote App on the iPad, create a presentation to sell your roller coaster to Splash Adventure.
  • The presentation must demonstrate the working coaster from start to finish.
  • Review the Project Checklist, Presentation Rubric, and Collaboration Rubric


Project Checklist - Questions to Consider

· Where are potential and kinetic energy demonstrated in your roller coaster?

· Where is there the most potential energy? Where is there the least? How do you know?

· How tall is your coaster? How fast does your coaster travel? How can you measure your coaster and apply these measurements to improving your coaster?

· How tall does the track have to be to make a complete loop successfully? Does the length affect the height or vice versa? If you shorten the track, should it be steeper?

· What mathematical concepts are applied to your coaster? How can you show or explain where these happen?

· What background knowledge of roller coaster design was applied to your creation? Did you take into account coasters you have seen, ridden, or heard about? How much research did you do to determine your coaster was a sound design?

· How is your coaster going to draw tourism to the state? What sets your coaster apart from any of the other designs?