Physics of Roller Coasters – Motion & Forces

How does velocity connect to roller coasters? What about acceleration? Check out the video below. What does motion have to do with how these girls are feeling and reacting?

Explain each of these concepts and how they are related to roller coasters:

  • Velocity
  • Acceleration
  • Momentum
  • Centripetal Force

WARNING: Use your own words to show your learning. Copying text does not demonstrate understanding or your learning.

Still confused? Think about this…

  • Velocity is how fast you go in a specific direction.
  • Acceleration is how your speed changes. Are you getting faster or slower?
  • Momentum is mass x velocity,  or how much stuff you have and how fast that stuff is moving.
  • Centripetal force is the force that keeps an object moving in a circle. Objects don’t want to move in circles. They have inertia and want to keep traveling in straight lines. But centripetal forces, whether a rope, coaster track, or road, keeps the object turning.

Thinking About Design

Next class, your group is going to head outside to build a model marble roller coaster, made of foam tubes and masking tape. To prepare, draw two possible designs that you might want to attempt.

Move on to Modeling Roller Coasters