Project Competition 2020

Roller Coaster Ride

Problem:  Can your team construct a roller coaster that will work?

Research:  Read up on calculating velocity at a point, kinetic and potential energy and how they help calculate total work done by friction.

Hypothesis:  What will you have to do to make your roller coaster car (a ball bearing) complete the circuit?

Procedure and Rules:

  • The roller coaster must start with a hill of height of 0.5 meters. An appropriately cut dowel will be given as a starter.
  • There must be one vertical loop on the track. A vertical loop is defined as any time the “rider” is upside down on a loop of track that is within 10 degrees of vertical.  If the vertical loop is a portion of a corkscrew (helix), it counts as a vertical loop.  Horizontal loops do not add bonus points.
  • There must be one complete hill (car goes up and down) with a minimum height of 12 cm.
  • You must design the roller coaster so that the car stops before it falls off the end of the track (see the video on the website). A flat portion of track at the end will be needed. The ball must continue to have forward motion before it comes to a stop.
  • Check out the links below:

Rules with images
Required sketch and calculations required
Supplies in boxes per school
How to calculate Work

Calculations and Drawings:

  • Design your roller coaster following the rules. Keep in mind what you learned from your research about kinetic and potential energy.
  • On the day of the competition you will construct a roller coaster using the given materials (list on the website). The coaster must be able to stand by itself.  YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO HOLD UP THE COASTER.
  • You will need to draw a sketch of your roller coaster on the provided handout and calculate velocity at the top of the hill and total work done by friction.


Dr. Aaron Jesse
Mathematics Faculty