This activity from the Teach Engineering Digital Library engages students in the engineering design process as they build physical models of roller coasters using foam pipe insulation and marbles. The lesson features a host of instructional supports: scripted introduction, discussion questions, front-loaded vocabularies, video showing the design in action, formative assessment, background information, scoring rubric, and specifications worksheet. The lesson is especially robust because it guides students to deeper understanding of how engineers must know fundamental physics before they can design anything. The following Physical Science content is specifically addressed in this activity:
Kinetic and potential energy
Conservation of Energy in terms of total energy in a system
Transfer of kinetic energy to thermal energy in the surrounding environment (through friction)
Gravitational Potential Energy (GPE)
Allow a minimum of two class periods; allow 3 periods if students will be evaluating each others’ designs.