Hands-on activities are important when it comes to engaging kids in science and math. STEM Activities for Kids are a fun way to teach kids to be critical thinkers, while increasing science literacy.
Making a homemade marble roller coaster is a fun Marble Run STEM Activity for kids of all ages.
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Roller coasters are a fun way to explore physics.
In the past we have had fun creating our own cardboard tube marble run.
Making a pool noodle marble roller coaster provides kids the opportunity to be creative while exploring potential & kinetic energy, momentum and centripetal force.
Caution: Marbles can be a choking hazard for young children. Make sure all marbles are safely put away after this activity.
Marble Run STEM Activity
- Pool noodles
- Duct tape
- Small marbles
- Paper cup
Start by cutting one pool noodle in half lengthwise. This will give you two pieces of track. (If you are working with younger children, you may want to do this step ahead of time.)
Roller coasters usually start with an exciting drop down a big hill. Lots of smaller hills, and sometimes even loops, follow.
The goal of this STEM activity is to create a roller coaster which will transport the marble from the top of the first hill, all the way through the track. This means you need to start with a steep hill.
Use tape to secure one piece of track to the back of a kitchen chair, table, or countertop so it forms a hill.
Place your cup at the bottom of the track and test out the hill.
When you place your marble at the top of the hill and let it go, the marble should end up in the cup. If it comes off the track, adjust your pool noodle and try again.
Now comes the fun part! Your child gets to design and engineer the rest of the coaster.
Remove the cup and use your other pool noodle half to continue your track. Use duct tape to attach it to the bottom of your hill. Make sure when you connect the pieces that you smooth the tape out. A bump in the tape will make your marble jump off the track.
Once the second piece of pool noodle is connected, you can use it to make a small hill or two by bending it into a hill and taping it in place to the floor. (Remember to keep your tape smooth.)
Or, you can make a loop with the pool noodles by curving the free end up and over. Once you form the loop, use a piece of duct tape to secure the inner parts of the loop. Use more duct tape to hold it in place on the floor. (Sometimes it helps to have someone hold the track pieces while you tape.)
Place your cup at the end of the track and test out your coaster again by sending the marble down the big hill.
If your marble comes off the track, try again. If it continues to come off you can loosen the tape and try adjusting the track.
Building the track for the marble to go through is a bit like building a maze.
Looking for more maze ideas? Check out this simple Lego Hexbug Maze.
How Does a Marble Roller Coaster Work
Just like the cars on a real roller coaster, the marble has potential energy when it is at the top of the hill.
The energy becomes kinetic energy when the marble rolls down the hill. As it rolls it gains speed and momentum. This enables the marble to continue rolling when it comes to the smaller hills.
If the marble has enough momentum when it gets to a loop it will continue to travel, and centripetal force will keep the marble rolling forward through the circular path.
Extensions for the Roller Coaster STEM Activity
- Make your track even longer by adding additional pool noodles. Can you make a curve? Can you get the marble to go through 2 loops?
- Use other materials, such as cardboard boxes, to add other elements to your coaster. Try making a tunnel or using the boxes to help make hills.
- Experiment with changing the height of your first hill. Try making it taller or shorter. How does it affect the coaster?
Kids of all ages will have fun with this marble run STEM activity.
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