Jul 30, 2018

Roller coaster challenge thrills eighth-graders

Lori Cirucci teacher and science content leader at Broughal Middle School uses PPL Empowering Educator grant to launch Roller Coaster curriculum to give students a hands-on lesson on kinetic energy and the forces of motion.

The marble zigs and zags, rolling down multiple levels, before coming to a rest on the cardboard track of the “roller coaster” designed by a team of eighth-graders in Broughal Middle School in Bethlehem.

While it may seem like fun and games, designing the coaster also served as a hands-on lesson on kinetic energy for nearly 190 students.

Lori Cirucci, a teacher and science content leader at Broughal Middle School, designed the Roller Coaster curriculum to give students a hands-on lesson on kinetic energy and the forces of motion.

The students were split into teams of 4, competing for glory and a chance to spend a day at Dorney Park.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had kids so eager to get to science class that they were running to my classroom to get started on their projects,” said Cirucci.

With help from an Empowering Educator Grant from the PPL Foundation, Cirucci was able to purchase supplies so that all of the school’s eighth-graders could participate in the project.

Cirucci said the project would not have been possible without the PPL Foundation grant .

Close of of colorful paper rollercoaster, created by students at Broughal Middle School
Eighth-grade students put their engineering and physics skills to the test, successfully designing and building their own roller coasters using only cardboard, tape and lots of imagination.

“The project brought to life scientific principles for 187 students with a real-world example that they can all see in action,” she said.

The students learned about kinetic and potential energy during their introduction to physics. The course culminated in the students designing and building their own roller coasters using only cardboard, tape and lots of imagination.

Students had to figure out everything from the right formula for kinetic energy to the speed of the marble to what to call their creations. Some of Cirucci’s favorites include the Zig Zag and the Titanic, which featured a little boat.

If a marble was able to successfully travel on the track – thanks to kinetic energy – it was a success. The students selected the top coasters in each class.

Roller coaster experts – staffers from nearby Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom – were enlisted to judge the coasters on their design and how well they worked. The winning teams were awarded a special day at Dorney Park, where they could learn about the physics and mathematics of amusement park rides in a fun, interactive setting.

“The students got really creative with their designs,” said Circucci. “It was really fun to see how they each put their own spin on things.”