I'm 7 years into teaching and I'm constantly trying to come up with new ideas for fun and interesting projects, and ways to make my existing projects even better.
So.... I knew I wanted to make a coaster that kids could test their own custom cars on. I had 3 or 4 different K'nex coaster sets that I'd been collecting from thrift stores and garage sales. I just needed a place to put the thing. I've seen some crazy K'nex builds that take up entire basements and back yards. Unfortunately I do not have the space at school to set up something like this, and if you leave something out in a school environment, someone is likely to trip over it and break it.
The solution is simple.....
Build the coaster on the wall. It's so simple that I don't even need to write pages of instructions for you. Besides, I was not a member of instructables when I built this project, so I don't have any detailed pictures of the assembly.
Here's what you need to know:
- You need to find an appropriate wall space.
- You need to decide on a size. Mine is 12 feet tall by 8' wide.
- I built two 2x4 frames that were 12' x 4' and covered them with peg board.
- Try to find peg board with 1/4" holes in it.
- Buy a box of 1/4"-20 carriage bolts. I bought 6" long bolts which worked great. You may need some shorter and some longer, depending on your design. Oh..... get nuts and washers as well.....lots of them.
- Find some sort of bracket to use for mounting the boosters and to support your large loops.
- 3 heavy duty hinges and some casters will let you swing your k'nex wall out so that it's easy to install components and make changes. Make sure that you screw into to studs, or use anchors if you're screwing into a block wall.
- Right now my boosters run on batteries, but it will be so much more convenient when I hook them all up to adapters and a power bar, so that I can turn them all on simultaneously without climbing up a ladder.
- The hardest part is actually building and designing the track layout. It takes time, and a lot of trial and error. I treated the peg board as a blank canvas. I started at the top, and worked my way down. When I got to the bottom, I had to figure out the best way to use my boosters to get back to the top again. It's really important to get large brackets so that you can overlap sections of the track.
- By utilizing the design process, students will test and evaluate the success of their designs.
- By carefully planning and budgeting materials, students will simulate real life design scenarios.
- By researching many different aspects of roller coaster design, students will move past surface level understanding of concepts, and learn to be more curious about how things work.
There are many additional aspects to this project. While it's great for learning the design process, I also find it's a great vehicle for teaching computer skills, such a graphic design, and literacy skills through research and report writing. Another great aspect of this project is the trip to Canada's Wonderland, where we ask students to not only ride the coasters, but to take a closer look at the design of each one. Last year, we were lucky enough to see a ride in testing. It was conveniently filled with plastic dummies, which is the concept we use for this project.
I also show the students a great video produced by National Geographic, that documents the design and building of Kingda Ka at Six Flags Park,.
Step 1: Details of the Track
Step 2: Materials
The rules sheet, expense sheet, and materials sheet are available as PDF files at the bottom of this page as well as in the complete project outline on the last page.
I basically modified a K'nex coaster car so that we could attach our own vacuum formed plastic coaster bodies. The idea of the project is to purchase materials from the material list, and build a restraint system to hold the passengers in place. The passengers for this project are marble-sized, nylon balls. Some building materials are more expensive than others. I learned after the first time running this project to dramatically increase the price of tape. You want to encourage your students to come up with creative solutions. Tape is such a cop-out.
Anyway, there are bonuses for the number of passengers your restraint system can hold, but be careful, there are penalties for losing a passenger on the ride.
I usually come up with prizes for this project and make it into a competition. The person with the highest amount of money remaining after budget, bonus, and penalty calculations have been made is the winner.
Step 3: Building the Coaster Body
Once they've be given the go ahead, they can start to build their first model. To do this they'll need to:
- Cut out a piece of their foam using the wooden template.
- Shape the foam with various carving tools, their hands, sand paper, drill bits... you name it.
- Vacuum form their foam mold
- Drill the center hole in the body of the coaster (they'll need to plan their seats around this hole)
- Cut around the outside of the plastic body
- Begin to attach their materials to the body. The wooden block is optional. For some designs, it gets in the way, for other designs, it's necessary for support.
- Students may use varying sized of drill bits to attach specific materials to their car. I encourage them to try different bits in a scrap piece of wood in order to achieve a good friction fit. Remember, tape is expensive, and you're not allowed any glue.
- Once your design is complete, you have the option of trying a test run. Don't forget, this costs money too, but you won't be penalized for dummies flying out during the ride on a test run.
Step 4: TESTING
You can see the graveyard of coaster designs from third time I ran this project. You can see that there wasn't much tape used, but I think the price of pipe cleaners will be going up for the next crew of coaster designers.