The designers and builders of the roller coaster “The Island of the Lost Dreams” answer questions from their teacher, Jennifer Gonzalez, and two judges. The roller coaster track is made from a pool noodle cut in half. This was a common material used by most other teams, as well. Pictured, from left, are students Ximena Rodriguez, Itzel Chavez and Brittany Chavez, instructor Gonzalez, Shane Gerhartz and Chad Scheel. (Johnson Publications photo)

Eighth grade science students challenged in end-of-year project

    Eighth grade science classes at Chase County Schools were challenged in an unusual way for their end-of-year project and final exam, said Jennifer Gonzalez, middle school science teacher.
    There were 18 design projects with one to four students teamed up per project.
    Teams were given three weeks to research, design, build and complete their calculations for a functioning roller coaster, Gonzalez said.
    There were two teams with four students each who were required to go above and beyond in the design aspect since they had a slight advantage over the teams of one to three students, she added.
    All of the students were given a roller coaster project rubrics which defined 20 different areas of criteria and the number of points they could achieve with each.
    The students were required to apply all physics-based areas to their design, Gonzalez continued.
    Areas of physics the students had to incorporate into each roller coaster design included, in part, where the potential energy is lowest and highest, average velocity of the ride, how Newton’s first, second and third Laws are represented and more.
    Gonzalez said each roller coaster had to have a minimum of one loop, one curve and one hill. Any material type could be used.
    “They could choose to use either a small car or a marble as the ‘vehicle’ on the roller coaster. But most of them chose to use a marble,” she said.
    The marble had to be started without touching it, and had to  arrive safely at the end and not leave the track.
    Last, but not least, they had to name their roller coaster, she said.
    Each roller coaster team then had to give a presentation, including a demonstration in front of the judges and show they were knowledgeable about the physics of their  coaster.

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