The Best Materials to Build a Roller Coaster for a Science Project

Roller coasters used to be made of wood.
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Making a roller coaster is a science project many middle school and high school physics students encounter. While there are many different designs that have been developed and tested, some are less difficult and time-consuming to build than others. There are also a myriad of materials available to design a roller coaster with; however, some are inherently easier to work with due to their lightness and flexibility.

Flexible Tubing

Flexible tubing is the easiest material to build a science project roller coaster with. Depending on where you have to construct the roller coaster, you can use tape to secure it to a platform or other objects. The advantage of flexible tubing is that it twists easily to form loops, twists and turns. If you use clear tubing, it is also easy to see the marble as it travels along the roller coaster.

Foam Pipe Wrap

Foam pipe wrapping is flexible and easy to bend into curves, twists and loops. In addition, foam pipe wrapping is easily secured to an object using tape. The downside of foam pipe wrap is that you cannot see the marble as it travels. However, the foam pipe wrapping may be cut halfway open for its entire length, or just portions of the roller coaster, to glimpse the marble traveling inside.

Garden Hose

If you cannot get flexible tubing or foam pipe wrap, a garden hose works just as well. If you have an old hose, cut it off to the length that you will be using. Because a hose is heavier, it may require more to support it. Boards, bricks or other solid materials may be used to support the hose, depending on where you are constructing the roller coaster.

Drinking Straws

For a smaller roller coaster that uses peas instead of marbles, use drinking straws. These are light, flexible, cut easily and may be twisted into different shapes. Use tape to connect them and secure them to a solid surface. If you use clear straws, you will be able to watch the pea as it travels the length of the roller coaster.

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