Physical Science

Unit 1: Energy and Motion

WebQuest Projects



In this WebQuest, students do some Internet research on the physics of roller coasters and on how physical laws influence roller coaster designs, and build and test simple models of roller coasters. They learn about the laws of motion and potential and kinetic energy. They learn what variables are involved in roller coaster design. They also find out how manipulating those variables can allow for different coaster designs. Students also learn about the limits physical laws place on roller coaster design. After researching, students build and test simple models of roller coasters. Finally, they report on their designs and discuss the results of their tests.



Once students have completed their Internet research, they will design, build, and test their model roller coasters in class. Students will prepare reports on their findings and share their results with their classmates. Reports should be simple, and include a drawing of the roller coaster track. You may decide to have students work in groups of two or three students for this activity. Be sure that students in small groups assign specific tasks to each group member.


  • Research roller coasters to identify variables that affect roller coaster design.
  • Identify the physical laws, such as Newton’s Laws of Motion, that govern roller coaster design.
  • Apply specific laws of motion to the design of a simple model roller coaster.
  • Design a model roller coaster track and test it using a model roller coaster.



Students will use the Internet links given to find out how roller coasters are designed and built. They will find out what physical laws govern roller coaster design, and use that information to design simple model roller coasters. They will identify the differences between potential energy and kinetic energy and apply this knowledge to roller coaster design. Students will also need to collect materials needed to build their models, such as clear vinyl tubing and steel balls.



1 class period for Internet research; 1 class period to build and test their model roller coasters.



As students progress through the list of web sites, you may help them to focus on what they need to know in order to design and build a model roller coaster. Several of the links have directions and suggestions for building models of roller coasters. Allow students time to explore these sites and any others they come up with in their research. Most students will decide to build a roller coaster using flexible, clear plastic tubing and steel balls, but other materials can be used as well. Students may come up with creative designs and unique materials.



You may use the following rubric to evaluate students’ reports on the testing of their model roller coasters.



Information was clear and coherent 10  

Drawing of model roller coaster track 10 was detailed and clear


Test given was successful/clear explanation was given if test was unsuccessful


Explanations and reasons were given for conclusions made

Total Possible Points40  

*Rate each category according to the following scale: Excellent – 9-10 points; Very Good – 7-8 points; Good – 5-6 points; Satisfactory – 3-4 points; Poor – 1-2 points; and Unsatisfactory – 0 points.



Using information gathered from the Internet and materials they collect (or you provide) students should be able to design, build, and test simple models of roller coasters. In the testing process, students should be able to identify the problems with their models. Students should be able to draw conclusions about the importance of physical laws in the design of roller coasters as well as other amusement park rides.



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