Pictured is Savana Krupicka with her roller coaster.
By Matt Nicholas, Exeter-Milligan Science Instructor
What a ride it’s been! Just like a good roller coaster, 2020 has had its ups, downs, and all-arounds. The EM physical science students have been studying just that. Roller coasters are a great way to demonstrate the law of conservation of energy, and the coasters that the freshmen built did not disappoint. Unlike other roller coasters, ours did not have a mechanism to get from the bottom back to the top, but the journey from top to bottom was an adventure in changing potential energy to kinetic energy.
The students were tasked with building a 2 foot tall roller coaster out of popsicle sticks, straws, notecards, and tape. They had a 4 square foot plywood base to build on, and a marble to run the track. The requirements for a perfect score other than minimum height of 2 feet were 3 hills, 3 turns, and two loop the loops.
The students worked with partners during several days of class time, and a few students came in outside of class. The designs were all very unique and reflected the personalities of the students building them. Some of the groups planned things very carefully, and others just started building. Some were flexible and changed up strategies when things were not going well, while others were firm in their designs and refused to bow down to gravity.
I saw a lot of wonderful interpersonal communication during this project. The partners were randomly drawn and some groups had matches made in heaven and others were matches struck against the side of the matchbook. In the end, all of the kids showed perseverance and teamwork. I was sad to see the project end, but very happy with the results. Most of the coasters worked as expected and had excellent design. Some had flaws, but not for a lack of effort. There may be an engineer or two in class of 2024, only time will tell!