15 min - 1 hr
Engineering and Tech
DIY, Engineering design challenge, Family activity
Roller coasters are fun, fast, and are a great example of physics in action. Your challenge is to build a roller coaster out of materials you can find in your home.
Your Roller Coaster Should:
- Include a “car” – any object that rolls or slides along the track without falling off the sides
- Include a “track” that carries the car as it rolls without the car falling off the sides
- Incorporate at least one hill, turn, loop, jump, or dip in the track
- Be an original use of all materials (no out-of-the-box roller coaster toys please!)
Submit Your Roller Coaster Project Here!
Did you make a roller coaster that worked? Submit a photo, video, or story about your roller coaster by clicking the link above. You’ll have the option to be included in our Gallery of Awesome and receive a Certificate of Awesome in the mail!
Car Material Ideas:
- Ping pong, bouncy, golf, or even tennis balls
- Any small toy that rolls or has wheels
- Any smooth object that fits in or on your track (a small rock, a lip balm container)
- A rolling roller coaster car of your own design
Track Material Ideas:
- Empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, cut in half long ways
- Pool noodles cut in half long ways
- Wire, wire closet hangers
- Paper or cardboard, folded in half
Feeling Stuck? Try This First: Paper, A Small Ball, Tape
- Cut a piece of printer or construction paper into three long strips 2-4 inches wide
- Tape them together into one long strip of paper, then fold in half lengthwise to make a track
- Tape one end of the track to the ground, and the other end up on a chair or coffee table, so that the fold forms a v-shaped track that your ball can roll down
- Release a small ball at the top of your track and watch it roll down. You just made a roller coaster!
Now Challenge Yourself:
- Make the highest roller coaster you can
- Make a roller coaster with one or two loops
- Make a roller coaster with a jump from one track to another
- Make your roller coaster end with a slow, gentle stop
More Roller Coaster Resources And Guides
Science Friday created this resource as contributing members of CoBuild19, a collective of educators, organizations, and researchers working to help youth and their caregivers spend quality time together building and creating. The work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and Infosys Foundation. Learn about the initiative and find more activities at CoBuildAtHome.com.
Cover image credit: Shutterstock
Meet the Writer
About Ariel Zych@arieloquent
Ariel Zych is Science Friday’s director of audience. She is a former teacher and scientist who spends her free time making food, watching arthropods, and being outside.