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Energizing Everything    Mystery 2

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What makes roller coasters go so fast?

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Beginning Exploration (1 of 6)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 6)

Discuss:

It seems like roller coaster cars can move without a motor.

Do you have any ideas about how they do this?

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 6)
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Beginning Exploration (4 of 6)

Discuss:

The motor provides the energy needed for the roller coaster to climb the hill. But where does the energy come from that makes the roller coaster zip through the rest of the ride?

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Beginning Exploration (5 of 6)
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Beginning Exploration (6 of 6)

Discuss: Which roller coaster is faster, the white one or the red one? How can you tell?

coasters

Reveal answer

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Beginning Activity Prep
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters (old)
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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the Exploration & Activity which you just completed.

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Video: People-Powered Theme Park

An Italian restaurant owner had an idea. He wanted to build amusement park rides that were powered by the people riding them. Forty years later, his restaurant is famous for his homemade people-powered rides. To ride these rides, people have to put energy in by pedaling or pushing or climbing.

Take a quick tour and find out what it’s like to provide the energy for a ferris wheel ride in this short video.

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Video: Meet a Roller Coaster Designer

Check out this short video from PBS Kids. Chris Gray decided he wanted to be a roller coaster designer when he was just 8 years old. Today, he has the job he dreamed of as a boy.

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Activity: More Science with Marbles

In the Bumper Coaster experiments, a moving marble gave energy to the target marble and made it move. Your class can continue to explore what happens when marbles collide with a game of Ring Taw. To win this game, students have to figure out what will happen when one marble bumps another. You'll find instructions on how to play, a list of what you need, and a worksheet for students right here. Show your students how to shoot marbles with this video demonstration.

For more experiments with colliding marbles, check out this lesson from master teacher Melissa Romano. (For this lesson, students need to know the concept of mass.)

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Lesson Image
red roller curve by Jeremy Thompson , used under CC BY
Exploration
rollar coaster by Jeremy Thompson , used under CC BY
Goliath front row by jonyboi55
blue Car by Arup Malakar , used under CC BY
cheetah by Marlene Thyssen , used under CC BY-SA
Goliath at Six Flags by Jeremy Thompson , used under CC BY
rollar coaster going uphill by Jeremy Thompson , used under CC BY
rollar coaster wheels by Boris23
rollar coaster motor by Dynamics of Amusement Parks
wood rollar coaster model by The Coaster Critic
Goliath on-ride by aerohead4
top of Goliath by Jeremy Thompson , used under CC BY
man riding bicycle by Stan Schwarz , used under CC BY-SA
bike lane by Elvert Barnes , used under CC BY-SA
hills by Eamon Curry , used under CC BY
cycling descent video by Collin Magnetti
fast skiing by Gor Vardanyan
skydiving by Hunter Lee
moon limb & troposphere by NASA
meteor by Ed Sweeney , used under CC BY
Dragon Khan and Shambhala by Sotti
Activity
penguins by Liam Quinn , used under CC BY-SA
pen by JohannPoufPouf
bumper cars by Jermey Miles , used under CC BY-SA
bumper cars in line by Ronald Saunders , used under CC BY-SA
alligator by Experience Kissimmee, Florida , used under CC BY
marbles by Haragayato , used under CC BY-SA