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Now you get to use gravity to create a machine! A lot of money is used in creating machines that use gravity. Each time that you visit an amusement park, you experience machines based on gravity! In this activity you will design a roller coaster and then test how successful it operates.


Materials (per group of students)

  • One 15 foot length of polyvinyl tube 1/2" diameter
  • Three ring stands
  • One four foot dowel
  • One roll of 3/4" wide masking tape
  • One empty 35mm film canister
  • One small steel bearing (must fit in tube easily)
Safety concerns: As with all science lab activities, the most important safety rule is to follow all teacher directions.


  1. Design a roller coaster that has the following components. (Refer to the photo for help. The term High Ep refers to a high amount of potential energy. The term High Ek refers to a high amount of kinetic energy.)
    • Two loops
    • Two true hills (not counting the starting point)
    • One corkscrew, spiral, or twist
  2. Name your coaster - give it a fun name!
    • Draw your roller coaster in the form of a blue print.
    • Include labels for the parts of the roller coaster.
    • Explain where a rider would feel weightless.
    • Point out areas where a rider would feel that they "gained" weight!
  3. Now build the coaster!
    • Place ring stands on a desk or table.
    • Use the masking tape to connect your tubing to the support structures (ring stands)
      • Determine where the best location would be to put the four foot dowel:)
    • Tape the empty 35 mm. film canister to the end of your ride - to catch your steel bearing!
  4. Test out your ride by letting the steel bearing go.
  5. Determine if there are any locations where the bearing becomes stuck and figure out how to fix it.
  6. Re-draw the blue print if you made changes in your design.


  1. Which parts of the design were the most difficult to build in order to allow the ball-bearing to pass through the tube.
  2. What modifications did you make to improve your model? Describe them in a paragraph.
  3. How was gravity involved with this experiment?
  4. Did your ball-bearing ever stop during a trial run? Why, and how did you fix this problem?

To learn more about rollercoasters, visit Rollercoaster.com.

Review Science safetey rules here.

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 8th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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