Physics Themed: Unit 12 "Rollercoaster Energy"

12- Energy
Summary: So far this semester we have learned about motion of objects, and now we expand and add to that knowledge base by learning how it applies to a real, fun (comma is optional) object – a rollercoaster. To get an object in motion, like a coaster, requires forces that make it move and forces that retard motion as well. In Rollercoaster Physics, we care about the mass of objects because massive objects have more energy and require bigger forces to affect their motion. Since you will ultimately be responsible for designing a rollercoaster model, you will need to know about circular motion so you can properly design rollercoaster loops and turns. We will also learn about how circular motion affects human physiology (“black out” and “red out”) so you don’t come up with a dangerous, unhealthy rollercoaster design.

Conservation of energy is the key feature of this short unit. Kinetic and gravitational potential energy and their sum, mechanical energy, are conserved and must be accounted for. You will learn about these energy concepts and how they apply to every day situations as well as coaster design. The math here is very, very simple: The challenge is understanding the concepts involved in various situations and how conservation of energy can give the student a framework to understand the relationships between mass, speed, height (elevation) and the energy an object possesses. The math here just helps you be an energy accountant and to balance your energy checkbook. The student will learn that you can solve some motion problems using a different approach from Nifty equations and you still get the same answer.

Resources: Work packet, reading packet 1, handouts, tutorials


Unit 12: Rollercoaster Energy

Objectives, Vocabulary & Equations

Objectives, vocabulary & equations

Other important files (resources)

  1. Reading packet 1 (rollercoasters)
  2. Work Packet - Rollercoaster Energy

Tutorials (right-click and save file locally ("save target as"), then play)

  1. Notes 12-01
  2. Power up lab - 05-02A
  3. Notes 12-02 (Cost of Energy)
  4. Notes 12-03 (Energy exchange and weight)


More Links

  1. Rollercoaster Energy Notes
  2. Trebuchet Project Rubric
  3. Great America Permission Slip (2016 version, change dates!)