Links to other pages of this project:

Summary Page

Scenario Page

Saved Research

Student Evaluations

Project Rubrics

Fall Physics Student Page

CADD Class Student Page

Material Processing Student Page

Spring Physics Student Page

Fermilab LInC Online

Roller Coaster


Scenario Page


Index to sections of this page:

 Background / Context





Background / Context

The goal of this project is to build a model of an amusement park ride. The junior and senior level physics class will spend approximately one week in the fall researching what makes a good amusement park ride. The computer assisted design class will create an original design of a ride based on the physics class' suggestions. The material processing class will take the design and build a model from it. The spring physics class will analyze the model against the parameters from the fall physics class.

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Beginning / Getting Started

The students are presented with the scenario that they are part of a large company that designs and builds amusement park rides. They are each a member of a division of that company. Their task is to come up with their own idea for a ride and see the process through from beginning to end. The fall physics class is the research team. The computer assisted design class is the team of design engineers. The material processing class contains the factory builders. The spring physics class is the team that analyzes the prototype for feasablity. The students are in cooperative groups of 3 to 5 students and will decide amongst themselves how to proceed. However, they need to follow the thread started with the first class. This will be communicated in this web site.

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Middle / In Progress

In the fall physics class, the teacher is doing a lecture on velocity and acceleration and says, as an example, "When we go to Valleyfair Amusement Park, you will be asked to calculate the velocity at the bottom of the first hill of the roller coaster". A student asks, "When are we going?". The teacher responds, "Not until May. Hey, what if we designed our own rides for now?" Another student jumps in with, "Could we even build them and try them out with toy cars or something?" The teacher says, "Great idea! But what if we work on the design and have the Material Processing class build them down in the Industrial Technology area?" "Hey, good idea!" And a project is born. The physics class is then seen on the internet researching existing roller coasters. They are looking for what makes the ride "fun", what makes it something that people will pay money to ride. They are also researching what safety parameters need to be met, such as not exceeding certain "g" forces, correct banking angles for corners, etc. The physics students are also contacting actual ride design engineers for input. They are posting their findings and conclusions on this web site to be referenced by the other classes (divisions of the company). The teacher is allowing the students to take the direction that they choose, but is available with suggestions of web sites to visit. The teacher is also asking the students questions to make sure that the students have thought of enough factors about the ride.

The computer assisted design students are dreaming up their own original amusement park ride. They are reading the parameters set forth by the fall physics students and melding dreams and practicality. They are then drafting their design using a CADD program on the computer and posting the design on this web site. They are contacting outside design engineers for their input on the designs. The teacher is helping the students to interpret the parameters written by the physics students. The teacher is also answering technical questions about using the CADD software. The teacher is watching the designs take shape to make sure that they appear safe, fun and feasable.

The material processing students are looking at the design on the web site and determining what materials to use to build it. They are researching the structural requirements of their materials. They are then in the shop building a prototype of the ride. The teacher is available for questions at each of these steps. The teacher is also watching for safety in the shop.

The spring physics class is looking at the prototype of the ride and running it with pretend riders to make sure it works. They are checking the safety parameters set forth by the fall physics class on this web site and making sure that the model fits these parameters. The students are also checking whether the ride has enough "fun" features that it would be a money-maker. The teacher is available for questions and is questioning the students to make sure that they are considering all factors.

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End / Culmination

The prototype model is on display and the drawings of it's design are on the web site for others to access. The prototype is also being viewed by outside experts as to the reality of its feasability. The students are assessing the learning that took place and the effectiveness of the project for their learning.

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

Author(s): Mark LeFeber( and Jennifer Caskey(
School: Mahtomedi High School, Mahtomedi, Minnesota
Created: March 18, 1999 - Updated: May 2, 1999