Links to other pages in this project:



First Unit Physics

 Second Unit CADD

Third Unit Materials & Processing

 Forth Unit Physics

 Saved Research

Student Evaluations

Project Rubrics

Fermilab LInC Online


Roller Coaster


Summary Page

Index to sections on this page:











Subjects: Physics and Industrial Technology

Grade Level: 11th to 12th



This is an interdisciplinary project that involves industrial technology classes and physics classes in designing, building and critiquing roller coasters and other amusement park rides. The first semester physics class will research the safety standards and the components of a ride that make it "fun" via web sites and post these results on this web site. The CAD (computer assisted drafting) classes will research ride designs on the internet and then design their own based on the safety and "fun" criteria set up by the first physics class. The material processing classes will build the designs after researching structural properties of materials on the internet. The second semester physics class will critique these models by comparing them to the standards determined by the first physics class.


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Learner Description and Environment:

Students in each of the four classes will work in cooperative learning groups. These will be groups of 3 to 5 students that are heterogeneously mixed. Students will help to select the group in which they will work and are responsible for any division of labor.

There will be different groups within a classroom as well as groups existing in different classes across multiple disciplines that meet during different semesters during the school year, so they will need to communicate with each other and outside experts via this web page and email.

The students are in a suburban school of approximately 1000 students in grades 9 through 12.


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Time Frame:

In the CAD classes, this project will be worked on for 40 minutes a day for two weeks.
The physics classes will work on this project for 40 minutes a day for approximately one week in each of the semesters.
In the material processing classes, this project will be worked on for 40 minutes a day for four weeks.
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Learner Outcomes:

After completing this project, the students will be able to:

1. demonstrate an understanding of the safety requirements of amusement park rides
2. develop and use an instrument to determine the "fun factor" of a ride
3. demonstrate an understanding of the limits of speeds, forces, accelerations and angles in rides
4. develop an understanding of construction materials and their properties
5. demonstrate an understanding of the terminology used in ride designs
6. develop skills in using the internet and technology
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Alignment with Minnesota Learning Standards:

This project provides partial completion of each of the following high profiles of learning:

  • Read, Listen and View -- Technical Reading, Listening and Viewing
  • Write and Speak -- Technical Writing
  • Inquiry -- New Product Development
  • Scientific Applications -- Concepts in Physics
  • Resource Management -- Technical Systems
  • More detail about the graduation standards can be found on the Minnesota Children and Family Learning home page at


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    Structure of the Learning:


    The students will be presented with the problem of being part of a large company that designs and builds amusement park rides. One class will be the research team for the new products, another class will be the technical drawing and design engineering team that will design the rides. Another class will be the factory personnel that build the rides from the CAD drawings. The last class will be the inspection team that critiques the product for feasability on the market. Each stage will have to be passed on to the next class. Also the classes will be communicating with area experts. All classes will go on a field trip at the end of the school year to Valleyfair Amusement Park to experience first-hand the balance of safety and fun factors in rides.


    The students of the first class (physics) will have the opportunity to research the type of ride of their choice (roller coasters, centripetal rides, looping rides, etc.). They will be able to explore the internet to find applicable web sites and to determine what factors about the rides they wish to research. The second class (CAD) will have the freedom of how they want to design the rides given the parameters set forth by the first class. The third class (material processing) will need to research structural properties and then be able to choose the materials to use and the scale to use in building the models. The fourth class (physics) will be able to choose the basis on which to critique the rides that were built. The teacher will provide guidance as to suggested web sites and reference materials for the students to make their decisions.


    The final product of this company will be scale models of amusement park rides that meet certain safety standards and that are deemed "fun" enough to be profitable to the fictitous company. From this the students will gain an understanding of what makes rides fun and how safety plays a part in that.


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    Best Use of Technology:

    The research team will use the internet to research amusement park rides and their designs. They will contact amusement park personnel or the firms that designed and built rides to determine parameters for safety and "funness" of rides. This first class will record their findings on this web site for future reference by each of the following classes. The drafting team will be doing their designs on the computer using CAD software. They will contact ride engineers via email to ask them to comment on the feasability of their designs before they are sent on to be built. The construction crew will need to research via the internet the material safety standards before building the rides and contact area experts for possible changes in design. The final inspection will be done by accessing the parameters posted on this web site by the first class and applying them to the finished project. This last class will contact outside experts for help in analyzing the ride. The final designs will be posted on this web page for access from anyone interested.


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    As in research and development in a company, the students will keep a journal of their findings and progress. Along with the review of these journals, the results attained at the end of each stage will be assessed. The first class will post their findings and give a bibliography of web sites and experts involved in their research. The second class will have the drawings of their designs that can be assessed for quality and how well it follows the parameters set forth by the first class. The material processing class will have the end product of the model that can be assessed for structural quality and how well it follows the drawings given to them. The critiquing class can be assessed on how thoroughly they analyze the models according to the parameters set forth by the first class. Look on the rubrics page for more details on the student requirements and the criteria by which they will be graded.


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    Project Evaluation:

    The students of each class will fill out a survey asking for their input on the project. They will be asked to evaluate how much they learned from the project, whether they felt it to be an effective way to learn, and to give suggestions for improving the project in the future.


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    Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office, Friends of Fermilab, United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, and North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium (NCRTEC) which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL).


    Authors: Jennifer Caskey ( and Mark LeFeber (
    School:  Mahtomedi High School
    Created: March 26, 1999 Updated May 2, 1999
    URL: /lincon/w99/projects/coasters/present.html