For a high school physics lab, my group needs to make a roller coaster out of foam pipe insulation.

The coaster must use Newton's laws of motion. The coaster has to have at least three hills, though the first hill cannot be more than 1 metre high off of the surface it is upon. Does anyone have any ideas?

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So the pipe insulation is the track? Are you supposed to roll a marble through it, or have something riding on top of it, or what?

Could they possibly have come up with less user-friendly material for this project? Yikes.
27723773 (author)  RavingMadStudios7 years ago
 The insulation is the track,  and the vehicle is a ball bearing
OK, so it's more of a marble run than a roller coaster. That makes a little more sense, although the foam is still going to suck a lot of energy out of your system. I think the biggest trick is going to be to work out how to make sure that your hills utilize the energy most efficiently. Jack's idea of making the supports rigid is a great one, and I'd go even further and suggest using some kind of stabilizer along the length of the track as much as possible too. Maybe chopsticks and/or hanger wire duct taped to the underside of the foam. Anything you can think of to reduce friction inside the track would also be good, although I can't think of anything off the top of my head.
For the hills, I'd just experiment with the configuration to see whether your best results happen with steep or gradual drops & rises, and to make sure that your second and third hills are the right height.
glue two pieces together and put the marble in like this l l l l l l l l l l l l (technicley its not a hill :) ) l l l l l l l l l l l l thats staright l l < > l l < > l l Thats round < > ________l < > < ____________ hill and straight x3 but on the third put a wall to stop it
im so sorry i had an entire track set up paste it into the reply thingy and it should work
jonny646 years ago
could you put the first hill on a table then have it drop off the table?
DJ Radio7 years ago
My idea is to use a spring or rubberband powered ram to kickstart the coaster and send it on it's way.  That way it demonstrates the third law of motion, and you can get the coaster over all 3 hills.

Next idea is to have the second hill shorter than the first hill, and the third shorter than the second.
What are you aiming to do, is there a competition to win here  ?
Are you forced to use pipe insulation ? 
You can't AVOID Newton's laws of motion.....

27723773 (author)  steveastrouk7 years ago
 Yes, Yes, and I know...
At first I had no idea what was being described, but thanks to Google,

I found this:

I suspect the "first hill", the one than cannot be more than 1 m high, is the starting point for the ball bearing.  This spec also puts an upper limit on the amount of initial potential energy you can give the ball bearing, that is:   m*g*h0, where h0 = 1 m

Try to make the under-structure, whatever it is that is supporting the foam, to be as rigid as possible, because you're going to lose energy anytime the foam flexes.

lemonie7 years ago
Pipe-insulation? You'll need this to be very heavy to overcome the friction.