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GMC Prep students design roller coasters to demonstrate laws of physics

(GMC Prep students designed roller coasters to demonstrate the laws of physics.)

Senior students at GMC’s Prep School learned the laws of physics through a unique project. Teresa Barnes, GMC Prep’s Chemistry and Physics Teacher, instructed her students to create a roller coaster that had a minimum of one loop, one banked curve, a camelback, and two hills to demonstrate their understanding of Newton’s Laws of Physics, kinect and potential energy, conservation of energy, velocity, acceleration, and momentum.

“The roller coaster encompasses all of those things and it is demonstrated by the motion of their car which is a marble,” said Teresa Barnes, GMC Prep’s Chemistry and Physics Teacher. “It demonstrates the velocity of it, the change in acceleration, and the forces that are involved and cause it to slow down and speed up throughout the motion of the track.”

The students collaborated in groups of four and created a theme for their roller coaster. They used paper to construct their track and popsicle sticks as support. Card stock was used to ensure that the marble would come to a safe and complete stop. 18-year-old Maxwell Hopkins and his group themed their roller coaster after the 1980’s singer, Rick Astley. Hopkins says he wanted his group’s roller coaster to stand out among his classmates.

“The way that we stopped our marble I think was kind of unique compared to the other groups because we used a cup with some yarn in it to cushion the fall of the marble,” said Maxwell Hopkins, GMC Prep student. “The part of this project that proved to be the most challenging and interesting to build was probably the loop. I thought it was going to be difficult to build a loop out of paper, but once we figured it out; it was a pretty cool design.”

It took the students two and a half weeks to develop their project and Teresa Barnes says she was impressed with their results.

“They did amazing,” said Barnes. “Just the fact that the students were able to take the minimum requirements and build roller coasters that were successful on their first run impressed me.”

(Students constructed their roller coasters out of paper and use a marble as their car.)

(These students named their roller coaster "The Americoaster.")