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Energizing Everything    Mystery 3

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Why is the first hill of a roller coaster always the highest?

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

Discuss:

The first hill of a roller coaster is always the highest. Why can't the second or third hill be higher than the first?

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

Discuss:
Why does the marble make it over the lower hill: lowertrack

but not the higher one? highertrack

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

Time check!

The following Bumper Coaster activity will take about an hour.

If your time is limited, you might want to save the activity for your next science lesson.

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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (old)
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Beginning Activity: Bumper Coasters II (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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Online Resource: Roller Coaster Simulations

On these sites, students can experiment with roller coasters on the computer, testing their theories and trying different designs.

A simple roller coaster game from PBS Kids lets students experiment with the basics.

A more powerful simulation lets students add and change the height of hills and loops, testing the coaster to see what works. This simulation was created by Funderstanding, a website dedicated to providing inspiring resources.

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Activity: Build a roller coaster

Have students build roller coasters of their own design, using foam rubber tracks and working in teams of four.

You’ll find simple instructions and inspiration for your students at PBS Kids. At the bottom of the page, there are pdfs of instructions in both English and Spanish.

To become an instant expert on foam tube coasters, read these coaster-building instructions, complete with common mistakes and trouble-shooting tips. They were created by by an engineering teacher who works in afterschool programs.

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Activity: Science of Swinging

Explore energy using a playground swing. Swinging with Style gives students a chance to burn off energy while learning science. They will gather data in the playground, then graph and analyze their results in the classroom.

Science of Swinging is a more extended exploration of pendulums. It provides detailed background information for the teacher.

Both resources were created by Teach Engineering, a digital library of classroom science resources complied by university educators with National Science Foundation support.

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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 coaster arch by Jeremy Thompson , used under CC BY
Exploration
Blue fire roller coaster by Bernard Kowalski , used under CC BY
Intimidator layout by Kings Dominion
Behemoth layout by Canada's Wonderland
kids on swing by Julian and Stephanie Fong
bowling ball by Matthew , used under CC BY
bowling ball demo by Kenneth Harden
Dylan swinging high by Sandra C
Activity
ducklings by John Morgan , used under CC BY
ruler by JohannPoufPouf
pencil by Charm