Roller Coaster Marbles: How Much Height to Loop the Loop?

Roller Coaster
Marbles: How
Much Height to
Loop the Loop?
Arturo Romero, Jessica
Herrera, Beatriz Cantua,
Alex Escobedo
 The
goal of this project is to build a roller
coaster for marbles using foam pipe
insulation and to investigate how much
height is needed in order for the marble
to run through a loop of fixed size.
 At
least two 6 foot (183 cm) sections of 11/2 in (about 4 cm) diameter foam pipe
 Glass marbles
 Utility knife
 Masking tape
 Tape measure
 Bookshelf, table, or other support for roller
coaster starting point
Theory & Concepts
Potential Energy (stored energy)-the energy possessed by a body by
virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself, electric charge,
and other factors.
Kinetic Energy (energy of motion)-energy that a body possesses by
virtue of being in motion.
Conservation of energy-a principle stating that energy cannot be
created or destroyed, but can be altered from one form to another.
Gravity-the force that attracts a body toward the center of the earth, or
toward any other physical body having mass. For most purposes
Newton's laws of gravity apply, with minor modifications to take the
general theory of relativity into account.
Velocity-the speed of something in a given direction.
Friction-the resistance that one surface or object encounters when
moving over another.
Slope-the height of a given point from horizontal surface
Observation Table
 The
conclusion is that the higher we drop
the marble, the more loops it will make at
the end.
Source of Error
 Whenever
we didn’t drop the marble
from a high distance, it did not loop the
 The track also had to be straight in order
to flow smoothly
 How
high do you have to make the
starting point of your roller coaster in order
for the marble to "loop-the-loop"?
Here's a good webpage on kinetic and potential energy applied to
roller coasters:
Merritt, T., M. Lee and B. Colloran, 1996. "The Physics of Amusement
Parks: Kinetic and Potential Energy," ThinkQuest Library [accessed
August 23, 2007]
This short animation explains kinetic energy and potential energy:
Brain POP, date unknown. "Kinetic Energy," Brain POP® Animated
Educational Site for Kids [accessed August 23, 2007]
Here is a good reference for more advanced students:
Henderson, T., 2004. "Work, Energy, and Power," The Physics
Classroom and Mathsoft Engineering & Education, Inc. [accessed
August 23, 2007]