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Teaching in LA

21 Dec

Law of Conservation of Energy (Mechanical Energy) Roller Coaster Lesson

Posted in Uncategorized on 21.12.12 by Frank

Objective: Students understand that (in an isolated system) an object’s mechanical energy is conserved. The object’s energy is not created or destroyed, but is transferred between gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy.

Question: Which part of a roller coaster ride is the cart going the fastest? What rule(s) governs the speed of the cart?

I play the following video full-screen on the LCD projector:

(Well, I don’t play the second half.)

  • How do we get information on the speed of the cart? (The answer to this one isn’t obvious, but usually at least one student figures out the faster the cart goes, the louder the “woosh” sounds are.)
  • Watch for the height, listen for the speed. Is there a relationship? (I play the video again.)
  • As the cart loses height, it loses “height energy”, or gravitational potential energy. Is that energy just disappearing? If not, where does it go?
  • Which part of the ride is the cart going the fastest?

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