Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Sign up now for tons of free lessons like this one!

Energizing Everything    Mystery 2

Mystery 2 image

In this Mystery, students will explore how energy can be stored as height. In the activity, they will investigate how hills give roller coasters energy by experimenting with a model “bumper coaster.”

What makes roller coasters go so fast?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 6)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
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?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (3 of 6)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
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?

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Exploration (5 of 6)
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
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

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity Prep
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen

Activity Prep

1. Gather these supplies

pencil or pen1 per student
scissors1 per group
ruler1 per group
masking tape24" strip per group
paper or styrofoam cup1 per group
cutting board1 per teacher
sharp knife DetailsHide details
marbles DetailsHide details
12" stack of books DetailsHide details
¾” foam pipe insulation DetailsHide details
Bumper Coasters Experiment worksheet 3 total pages per student

2. Print and complete the Before-Class Checklist

Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters
Full Screen
Exit full screen whiteExit Full Screen
Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

Optional Extras

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

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

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.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

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.

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

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.)

Full Screen
Exit full screen blackExit Full Screen

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
Exploration
blue Car by Arup Malakar , used under CC BY
cheetah by Marlene Thyssen , used under CC BY-SA
bike lane by Elvert Barnes , used under CC BY-SA
hills by Eamon Curry , used under CC BY
meteor by Ed Sweeney , used under CC BY
Activity
penguins by Liam Quinn , used under CC BY-SA
marbles by Haragayato , used under CC BY-SA