"We're doing the roller coasters?! Yes!!"
That's the response I get from students who've taken my engineering classes before when they find out it's marble roller coaster day. It's a class favorite. It's an open-ended, fast-paced, constantly evolving, and easy to explain. This project reaches a wide span of grade ranges, from K-12. I'd like to note that the concept for this project is not my own, but the building and teaching techniques are.
If you enjoy this project, then check out my books: Rubber Band Engineer and Duct Tape Engineer. || More engineering projects || Everything I make
Here's a brief clip from some in-class footage that I took during one of my classes:
The lesson plan
Prep work: 2/5
Setup time: 1/5
Clean up: 2/5
Prep: Arrange plenty of space in your room
Cleanup: Allow 2 minutes near end of class for students to try each others coasters. Then have everyone gently take apart only their own roller coaster and clump all the used tape into a giant tape ball
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3/4" - 1" foam pipe insulation
You can also include elements from around the classroom, like tables, chairs, yardsticks, string, etc. To make the project more interesting, I sometimes acquire refrigerator-sized cardboard boxes and duct tape them to the floor of the classroom. Turn your class into an amusement park!