In this 9-day-long project, students work as a team to construct a large roller coaster out of foam pipe insulation
The project progresses through multiple stages:
-Designing the full scale coaster (on paper), based on the testing
-Creating a prototype full-scale coaster based on their design
-Tweaking the design to overcome flaws and challenges
-Creating an "advertisement" type poster for their coaster
-Creating a written set of 'reflection' questions about the process
-Building and showing off their final roller coaster design
This whole process takes 9 class periods (50min classes), but this can easily be tweaked to fit your schedule.
I've created a packet that groups will have access to during each class period, outlining the expectations for each stage.
The document also includes a score sheet, where students can see where the points are in each stage, and it also creates a simple way for the teacher to document group scores as the project progresses.
All of the materials are in WORD format, and I encourage you to tweak, adjust, adapt the project to fit your needs. It could easily be adjusted to focus on energy conversions/conservation, engineering/design, or force (gravitational force, Newton's Laws, etc).
I use this activity as my final project, at the end of our energy unit, prior to diving into some review and prep for my year-end final exam. As is, it's light on the academics, focusing more on teamwork, design challenges, and the ability to reflect on the creative process.
My students love this project! Every year, I have new students whose older siblings have told them about the project, and how much fun it was!