Ups and Downs of the Roller Coaster

By: Bridget Gehan ’18

     Every year spectators excitedly watch as each masterpiece of engineering is moved into the Physics classroom.

     The legendary Roller Coaster project is the annual assignment that Mr. Toner assigns the AP Physics students. This year, however, students in CP Physics also engineered roller coasters, leading to an even larger number of projects being submitted this year.

     The roller coaster project is made to help student understand concepts like Work, Energy (Potential or Kinetic), Acceleration, and Engineering.  

     We know they are beautiful and impressive, but those who peruse the displays probably fail to see what really goes into creating these projects. They miss the hours of work, cost of materials, and sacrifices that accompany the creation of a working roller coaster.

     Working in groups of no more than four people, the first step was to pick a theme for the roller coaster. This year, the creative themes ranged from baseball to Mario Kart to contemporary art.

     Once a theme was picked, groups needed to acquire the supplies necessary to make a killer coaster.

Miley, the bulldog in the background, stares at the roller coaster about to be decorated with paper fire to refelct the group’s “How To Train Your Dragon” theme.

     Senior AP Physics student Stephanie Ahn said, “The coaster was expensive. [The final cost]  totalled about $260.” Tracy Tanusi ‘18, who worked with Ahn added, “We spent almost 200 hours on this project over the course of 2½ months.”

     In a different group, Junior Madeline Ackley said, “It was really hard. Our roller coaster cost about $170. But it also cost a lot of time and sacrifice. One girl got 2nd degree burns on her hand and another sliced her finger open.”

     Though the project was difficult, Ahn and Tanusi still felt it was a fun project.

     Tanusi said, “It taught us how to work in a group and the importance of skill specialization. I loved my group because we worked well together and they were awesome. I honestly had a really good time.”

     Ackley echoed her sentiments saying, “It was painful getting the coaster to work, but the pride and feeling of accomplishment when the marble finally made it through the [entire coaster] track was indescribable. Looking back, I realize that it was a great assignment.”

     Maybe making the rollercoasters is not as glamorous as the finished product submitted on the due date, but Mr Toner’s Roller Coaster project is truly one of the most rewarding assignments students can do.

Author’s Note: Not all rollercoasters are this expensive; they can be made from nearly anything around the house. Students are not required to spend a lot of money in order to receive an outstanding grade. Also, building the roller coaster is a safe project, but, as with all things, students must work carefully.


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