Roller Coasters

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In this design challenge, learners will create their own roller coaster using household objects for the track and a marble or small ball as their cart. This activity is a simple introduction to hands-on engineering with basic physics connections to gravity, velocity, and potential energy. Includes building and testing suggestions and questions, background science, and an activity video featuring roller coaster examples and an ASL interpreter. A Spanish version of the activity is also available. Activity costs could be lower by using all recycled materials.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 14

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • Note: Don't limit yourself to items on this list, use whatever you have on hand-be creative!
  • Suggestions to build the track: Thin cardboard: card stock, empty cereal boxes; Paper and/or junk mail; Cardboard tubes — from toilet paper, paper towels, gift wrap; Thicker card: cardboard boxes; Pool noodles or other foam tubes; Plastic tubes or pipes
  • Suggestions to add stability or structure, or create rails: Wooden craft sticks, Straws, Pencils
  • A marble or small ball for your roller coaster cart
  • A plastic cup to end the ride in
  • Tools: Tape, Scissors, Hot glue (older engineers only)
  • Optional: Items from building kits from around your house: LEGO® bricks, Tinker ToysTM, K’nexTM, wooden blocks — to take the design further
  • Optional: Things to decorate your roller coaster: crayons, tissue paper, feathers, pom-poms, pipe cleaners
  • Optional: Timers, string, ruler or tape measure and kitchen scale — for the science section activities (at the end).


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Potential and Kinetic Energy
    • Motion and Forces
      • Gravity
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Toys


Foreign language versions of this resource:

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Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • , The Tech Interactive, 2020

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