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Oct 14, 2011

Amusement Park Physics

Alright all you Physics teachers out there, are you trying to find a fun way to connect the concepts of friction, force and energy (potential and kinetic)? Well, I think we've found one: Amusement Park Physics has students use all their base knowledge about friction and energy and apply it to a real world problem: designing a roller coaster.

The nice thing about this little flash "game" is the physics focused feedback.  After the roller coaster passes or fails its test run (if it fails you get to watch the little car fly off the track or crash and burn) you can hoover over each section of track and get specific feedback about why that selection worked or did not work and then go back, and re-design the track. 

An entire experiment or presentation project could be done. Students could set up tables with what sections they choose and why for each trail. Group presentations could be done to display:
1. What roller coaster worked and was "most fun".
2. What problems the group ran into.
3. All the physics behind each section.
4. Equations explaining speed and the potentail energy of the coaster.

This could be turned into a wonderful, problem based experiment for 11th and 12th graders taking a physics course in high school.  In an AP Physics class the addition of ALL equations and math needing to be shown and explained would bump things up a notch.

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