Roller Coaster Designer

By Jennifer Rodriguez, February 27, 2017

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Science

Lesson Time

Building Prior Knowledge Lessons: Six,60 minute periods


The second grade Science curriculum Unit Two is titles, Force and Motion. Within this unit the students discuss how object move, what makes objects move and position of objects. One aspect the students discussed is inclined planes, slop push and pull, motion and force.   The idea behind this design challenge is to have students design a roller coaster. When considering design they must think what it will take to make the ride enjoyable, but also allow the continuation of motion on the ride. Additionally, they must make sure the ride has locations where there is an acceleration or decline of motion/   The design process will help by allowing the students to understand the process it takes to develop a new roller coaster ride. That certain parts of a roller coaster a placed strategically to make sure the ride works correctly as well as is enjoyable.

National Standards

Science Physical Science Standard 10 – Understands force and motion Benchmark 3: Knows that the position of an object can be described by locating it relative to another object or the background. Benchmark 4: Knows that the position and motion of an object can be changed by pushing or pulling Benchmark 5: Knows that things move in many different ways (e.g., straight line, zigzag, vibration, circular motion)


Students will be able to identify the possible designs of a roller coaster.


Students will take on the role of an amusement park ride designer.


Students will design a roller coaster with given materials.


Books: Move It! : Motion, Forces and You By Adrienne Mason   Forces & Motion: From High-Speed Jets to Wind-up Toys By Tom DeRosa and Dr. Carolyn Reeves   Force Makes Things Move By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley   Motion: Push and Pull, Fast and Slow By Darlene R. Stille   Energy Makes Things Move By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley   Push and Pull By Patricia J. Murphy   Roll, Slope and Slide By Michael Dahl   Roller Coasters By Marla Frazee   Discovery Education Videos:   Liked 18 times 69,101 Views The Language of Science: Physical Science K-2: Force and Motion The Language of Science: Physical Science 3-5: Force and Motion   TEAMS: Forces and Motion: More About Newton: Action-Reaction   YouTube Video: SheiKra POV Busch Gardens Tampa B&M Dive Machine Roller Coaster On-Ride   Website: Amusement Park Physics – Design a Roller Coaster


Project board Paper towel rolls Toilet paper rolls Tape Yogurt cups Marble


Object(s) Position Force Motion Push Pull Inclined plane/ramp/slide Accelerate Decline Location Straight line Relativity


Prior to the design challenge the students should learn about position of an object, relativity of objects, push and pull, inclined planes, ramps, slides and force.


Watch a YouTube video of a roller coaster ride.


Tell about a time they went on a roller coaster.

The Lesson: Background Knowledge: Day One: Begin to build background knowledge by completing class of Simon Says. Play the game with modified directions, where the students are sitting up and down or moving objects on their desk. After the game, ask the students how the game is played and what did they notice about how the objects were moved. Read the book: Energy Makes Things Moveby Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Discuss with the students that objects, position of objects in relations to others.     Day Two: Read the book Motion: Push and Pull, Fast and Slow by Darlene R. Stille. Discuss with the students how motion of an object can be done by pushing or pulling and that it can be done fast or slow.   Day Three: Read the books Force Makes Things Move by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Push and Pull by Patricia J. Murphy. Further discuss the concept of force and push and pull.   Day Four: Read the book Forces & Motion: From High-Speed Jets to Wind-up Toysby Tom DeRosa and Dr. Carolyn Reeves. Make a list of other real world items that may be involve force.   Day Five: Read the book Move It!: Motion, Forces and Youby Adrienne Mason. Help the student connect to real world items that we see every day that are associated with force and motion. Lead the students to the idea of an amusement park and what objects/rides incorporate force and motion. Day Six: Read the books Roll, Slope and Slide by Michael Dahl and Roller Coasters by Marla Frazee. Have the student identify the push, pull and inclined planes within a roller coaster ride. Break up your students into groups and have them begin to discuss when they have been to an amusement park and the rides they have been on.   Day Seven: To motivate the students have them watch the YouTube Video: SheiKra POV Busch Gardens Tampa B&M Dive Machine Roller Coaster On-Ride This will excite the students about their design activity. Discuss with them their noticings about the roller coaster ride. Then, as a whole class view and utilize the Website: Amusement Park Physics – Design a Roller Coaster This will allow the students to see what it takes to design a roller coaster and how important it is to place the inclined planes in the correct location to create the appropriate force, push and pull.   The Design Process:   Step One: Split the students up into six groups of four.   Step Two: Have the students brainstorm their roller coaster design. Monitor the groups on their level of communication.   Step Three: Distribute the materials needed to design a roller coaster. Monitor the groups on their level of equal distribution of work.   Step Four: Circulate and discuss with the groups the ways to use the materials.(ie: how and where to cut the paper towel/toilet paper rolls)   Step Five: Design a roller coaster. Monitor groups on their level of communication and hands-on work.   Step Six: (Individual Assessment) Have the students complete the exit ticket. Using a paragraph format, they will have to describe their design, illustrate and describe their roller coaster prototype, tell what part of the design worked and what part of the design their group would change. Discussion Questions:
  1. When do we use force to move and object?
  2. How do we apply force to move and object?
  3. When you have been with your family, have you ever used force to move an object?
  4. What part of an amusement park uses force? Which ride do you like the most?
  5. What does a roller coaster designer need to consider when creating a new ride?


Assessment: The students will be given an exit ticket in which they will have to describe their design, tell what happened when they tested it with a marble, tell what worked or didn’t work and tell what they would keep the same or change.   Differentiate Instruction: Utilize many visuals to assist the students with understanding what a roller coaster looks like and how a ride on a roller coaster appears to a rider.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Expand: Have students think of other rides at an amusement park. Determine which rides use force and motion. Design a new ride for an amusement park. Additionally, have student participate in a scooter activity in the gymnasium. Have the students discuss the different ways they positioned themselves to move the scooter.   Enrichment: As an enrichment activity plan two activities. First activity being a class trip bowling. Bowling is a great way for students to learn how force can change the motion of a object and that force and motion affects other objects. Second, would be time in the school playground. The playground has many opportunities for the students to use energy, force and motion.

Teacher Reflection

The students truly enjoyed designing the roller coasters. The art teacher came in to assist one period. She commented on the excitement level and many conversations happening within the groups. The roller coasters came out amazing.   Again, some of the students had difficulty with the written exit ticket. They were great when it came to the creativity and design.   More work needs to be done in the area of being able to present the completed design. More students need to feel comfortable discussing completion. I may in the future allot time for presenting to each other in class as oppose to a written exit ticket. I would require that each student within the group must explain some piece of the design.

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