Jefferson 6th Graders Become Roller Coaster Engineers

Jefferson Middle School sixth grader, CamRon Mays, sketched the final details on his roller coaster, “The Bowl of Fire” during Susan Schrader’s Learning Lab. Students in Ms. Schrader’s and Ashley Johnson’s Learning Labs participated in the cool experience of becoming Roller Coaster Engineers. 

Stemming from their sixth grade science lessons, students started their adventure by discussing the best roller coasters they have rode and the potential and kinetic energy that made them so much fun.  Students visited the PBS Kids website, where they built roller coasters by placing tracks on a platform. They tested their roller coaster to see if it had enough potential and kinetic energy to get their cars to the end of the track. After several trials, each student gained the experience of how to create a track with enough energy.

After the student engineers learned about the energy it takes to create a roller coaster, they became engineers themselves and constructed their own designs. Each roller coaster consisted of many hills and loops, and students also had to show the amount of kinetic and potential energy their roller coaster used, as well as the speed of their cars. Just like a true engineer after completing the rough draft, students created the actual roller coaster on large poster board. 

“It was fun designing our own roller coasters,” said Jefferson sixth grader Gia Slaughter. “But we also learned a lot about kinetic and potential energy and how potential energy is used going up the hills on a roller coaster and kinetic energy is used going down. We got to be creative when we designed our own roller coasters, including the name.”

Students also watched a video about roller coaster engineers and how they do their jobs. To culminate the unit, students used a module graphic organizer and wrote a compare and contrast essay about their adventure as a roller coaster engineer as compared to the real engineers they met in the video. The interdisciplinary project included lessons from science, math (by calculating speeds) and English Language Arts with writing.

posted on 12/08/2014 - filed under: Academics, Middle School, Science, Spotlight, Students, teachers