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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One of the first “roller-coaster” rides in the U.S. was actually a short coal railway in Pennsylvania that hauled coal downhill between mines and used mules to bring the empty cars back up the hill. When it wasn’t hauling coal, passengers could hop in the empty coal cars to experience a thrilling ride, costing just $0.50, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. You can design your own thrilling roller coaster ride for a marble using materials you have at home.
What you need:
- Pool noodles or miscellaneous recycled materials to build with
In this activity you’ll be using gravity (a force that pulls everything toward the ground) to get your marble to travel through a roller coaster track you design.
1. Gather your materials and clear a small space where you can build your marble roller coaster track.
2. Use materials like tape, cardboard, paper, plastic containers you might recycle, even LEGOS, and other things around your home to build a track that a marble can roll down. (If you have foam pool noodles at home, those can make fun tracks when left whole or cut in half lengthwise and taped together for fun, flexible tracks.) You may even want to attach your track to a table or chair and run it toward the floor to make steep slopes.
3. To test your roller coaster, set your marble at the top of the track and let go. Let gravity pull the marble down and through your roller coaster ride.
4. Make adjustments as needed to improve your design!
Challenge yourself to make the marble go through these challenges:
- Can you make the marble roll from one end of the track to another?
- Can you make the marble roll faster?
- Can you make the marble roll more slowly?
- Can you make the marble roll over two hills on your roller coaster?
- Can you get the marble to launch from one end of the track and fall into a cup?
- Come up with your own challenges and try to complete it yourself or see if someone else can!
- What do you need at the beginning of the ride to get the roller coaster moving fast?
- Can a second hill be higher than the first hill?
- Observe the marble as it rolls. Where on the track does your roller coaster move the fastest? Where does it move the slowest?
- Which challenge was the trickiest?
- Where else do you see gravity or forces in your life?
This activity was adapted from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa 4-H, STEM-Lit to Go! Curriculum.
To get your child involved in fun learning opportunities, check out the affordable, in-person 4-H Day Camps scheduled throughout Linn County from June to August. Designed for grades K through 6th, each daylong camp costs $20, and financial assistance is available. Learn more at www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/content/4h-day-camps.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Linn County helps build a strong Iowa by engaging Iowans in research, education and extension experiences to address current and emerging real-life challenges. The 4-H Youth Development program empowers youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and research-based experiences. Linn County Extension Office website: www.extension.iastate.edu/linn