Coasters and Corkscrews: Amusement Park Physics
- Grades 5-6
- Science and Engineering
Have you ever wondered why you slide into your friend when you're on the Tilt-A-Whirl, or why you don't fly out of a rollercoaster even when you're traveling upside down? Examine the physics of our everyday lives and how these forces work in popular amusement parks.
Explore key concepts such as acceleration, gravity, and potential and kinetic energy as you investigate how rides are engineered to utilize these concepts for thrilling results.
Using virtual lab spaces and simple building products, design your own amusement park rides, employing Newtonian mechanics to maximize your results.
Fall and Spring Time Commitment: 4-5 hours per week (1-hour of class time, 3-4 hours of independent work).
Summer Time Commitment: 12-15 hours per week (3-hours of class time, 9-12 hours of independent work).
What we'll do
In each class, we’ll discuss students’ favorite amusement park rides—particularly, the physical principles that keep them safe and thrilling. Students will complete online lessons and virtual labs, and build physical models of rides independently, and then share their findings in whole-group sessions over Zoom.
What we’ll learn
- How to describe an object’s motion in terms of position, velocity, and acceleration
- Why an object is accelerating if it is speeding up, slowing down, or changing direction
- How unbalanced forces cause accelerations
- Why the total mechanical energy is the sum of kinetic and potential energy
- Why the total mechanical energy stays the same throughout a ride unless there are external forces (applied and frictional forces)
- How the total energy of a ride (the mechanical energy plus the energy that changed to thermal/sound) is always conserved
- How amusement park rides use accelerations to thrill riders
- How engineers need to design rides to ensure speeds, accelerations, and forces experienced by the rider are safe
By the end of the course, you will be able to:
- Describe the motion of objects in terms of velocity, speed, distance, displacement, and acceleration
- Identify forces acting on an object and draw free body diagrams
- Apply Newton’s laws of motion to analyze the motion of amusement park rides
- Describe and calculate the motion of amusement park rides in terms of potential, kinetic, and mechanical energy
- Apply the law of conservation of energy to analyze, predict, and design the motion of amusement park rides
- Design a marble roller coaster
How we’ll measure learning
This is an ungraded course. Students will submit short answers, free body diagrams and photos/descriptions of their models to the instructor and classmates for feedback. The culminative project of the course is to design a marble roller coaster with several features including a loop.
Register for an Online course by selecting an open class below. If no open classes are listed, then course enrollment is currently closed. Fill out this form if you wish to be notified when the next class is available. Note: You will need to have an active CTY Account to complete registration through MyCTY.
Testing and Prerequisites
|Required Level||CTY-Level||Not required|
Students must achieve qualifying scores on an advanced assessment to be eligible for CTY programs. If you don’t have qualifying scores, you have several different testing options. We’ll help you find the right option for your situation.Sign up for Testing Learn More
Cost and Financial Aid
- Nonrefundable Application Fee - $15 (Waived for financial aid applicants)
- Nonrefundable International Fee - $20 (outside US only)
We have concluded our financial aid application review process for Academic Year 2023-2024 Online Programs (Courses with start dates July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024). Our application for Academic Year 2024-2025 Online Programs is expected to open in January. We encourage those who may need assistance in the future to apply for aid as early as possible.
Please acquire all course materials by the course start date, unless noted as perishable. Items marked as “perishable” should not be acquired until the student needs them in the course. If you have questions about these materials or difficulty locating them, please contact [email protected].
- Steel marble (glass marbles are OK)
- Foam pipe insulation (diameter large enough for the marble) 30 cm metric ruler
This course requires a computer with high-speed Internet access and an up-to-date web browser such as Chrome or Firefox. You must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.
This course uses a virtual classroom for instructor-student communication. The classroom works on standard computers with the Zoom desktop client, and on tablets or handhelds that support the Zoom Mobile app. Recorded meetings can only be viewed on a computer with the Zoom desktop client installed. The Zoom desktop client and Zoom Mobile App are both free to download.
About Science and Engineering at CTY
Our Science and Engineering courses bring a variety of science topics to life. By introducing topics not covered in standard science curricula, we build and reinforce your science knowledge. All courses support critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning, and encourage a real-life, hands-on approach to learning about Earth, space, life sciences, chemistry, and the physical world. Guided by expert CTY science educators, you’ll master science lab kits, perform hands-on experiments using common household objects, participate in dynamic group discussions, or prepare for AP exams.
Newly revised Honors Physics course
Our completely redesigned Honors Physics course features new lessons, conceptual and problem-solving videos, and guiding questions that teach students how to solve each type of problem. Hands-on exploration activities challenge students to solve everyday physics problems from how giant cruise ships stay afloat to how to ship fragile packages without them breaking. Putting their physics knowledge to the test, students compete in our catapult design competition for Furthest Launch and Creative Design awards.
More engaging science enrichment courses!
In the newly revised Inventions in Engineering course, students bring fantasy into reality by creating inventions to solve the problems of favorite fictional characters and the real world alike. A new unit in Introduction to Forensics asks students to evaluate the validity of various kinds of forensic evidence and its impact on the lives of individuals, and to provide recommendations on which types of forensic evidence should be admissible in the criminal justice system. In Household Chemistry, students engage in newly revised activities that help develop their skills in making and recording detailed observations using all 5 senses as they explore states of matter and the role chemistry plays in their daily lives.