About Roller Coaster Loops

Highly Recommended
Like all our Science Reasoning Center activities, the completion of the Roller Coaster Loops activity requires that a student use provided information about a phenomenon, experiment, or data presentation to answer questions. This information is accessible by tapping on the small thumbnails found on the bottom right of every question. However, it may be considerably easier to have a printed copy of this information or to display the information in a separate browser window. You can access this information from this page

The Standards
The Roller Coaster Loops activity presents data that compares a circular loop and a clothoid loop on a roller coaster, thus comparing the effect of loop shape, loop radius and initial drop height upon the speed and the G forces experienced by riders at the top and the bottom of the loops. Questions target a student's ability to identify the effect of one variable upon another variable, to compare data points from different tables, to interpolate and to extrapolate from data in a table, to draw conclusions that are consistent with the provided data, and to use provided data to evaluate the safety issues surrounding projected loop designs.Success with the activity requires some degree of proficiency with respect to  ...
  • Developing and Using Models (Science and Engineering Practice 2.1)
    Evaluate merits and limitations of two different models of the same proposed tool, process, mechanism, or system in order to select or revise a model that best fits the evidence or design criteria.
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data (Science and Engineering Practice 4.6)
    Analyze data to identify design features or characteristics of the components of a proposed process or system to optimize it relative to criteria for success.
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (Science and Engineering Practice 6.5)
    Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.
  • Cause and Effect (Crosscutting Concept 2.2)
    Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

While the Roller Coaster Loops activity addresses the three NextGen Science and Engineering Practices and the crosscutting concept above, the activity drew its greatest inspiration from ACT's College Readiness Standards for Science Reasoning. The activity consists of 64 questions organized into 16 Question Groups that are spread across the four activities. Most questions address standards in the Interpretation of Data (IOD) strand. A few questions address data from the Evaluation of Models, Inferences, and Experimental Results (EMI) strand of the College Readiness Standards. The code given for the standard includes three letters to indicate the strand and three numbers to indicate the specific standard within that strand. Higher numbers are indicative of more complex science reasoning skills. The relationship between the questions and the standards is as follows:

Complementary and Similar Resources
The following resources at The Physics Classroom website complement the Roller Coaster Loops Science Reasoning Activity. Teachers may find them useful for supporting students and/or as components of lesson plans and unit plans.

Physics Classroom Tutorial, Circular Motion Chapter: Amusement Park Physics

Physics Video Tutorial, Circular Motion: The Physics of Roller Coasters

Physics Interactives, Circular Motion: Roller Coaster Model Simulation

Physics Interactives, Circular Motion: Roller Coaster Design

Concept Builders, Circular Motion: Forces and FBDs in Circular Motion

The Calculator Pad, Circular Motion Chapter, Problem Sets CG5 - CG9