I’m trying to catch up on my blogging… Back in summer, as part of our STEAM 2018 year of STEAM programming, we did a fun engineering project making roller coaster ski jumps out of pipe insulators for marbles to “ski” down! I’ve been meaning to share the photos and videos and finally had time today.

Here are the supplies I got:

Pipe insulators


Masking Tape

I had to cut the pipe insulators in half, and did that from home. So you also need a strong knife, like for cutting meat but maybe sturdier than that.

Then you have the kids get in groups of 3 or 4 and give each group of kids some insulator tubes and tape and some props and have them go to town! Each group will need a large space to work in, and one pitfall was kids trying to build their roller coasters around the other groups. That got hard sometimes, and they’re kids, so they had difficulty navigating that in a polite way sometimes. I really wish I had provided more simple props like chairs and stools, because one group got really obsessed with building a complex structure out of the blocks for the roller coaster to sit on. Unfortunately, that took up all their time.

First I actually showed the kids a presentation to teach them about the physics of roller coasters, the importance of starting way up high and having as much potential energy as possible, so that you can generate a high level of kinetic energy to power your car through the twists and turns. We put that learning to use making roller coasters with pipe insulators.

It was not as easy as it might sound. The kids had to do a lot of teamwork, tweaking, and reassessing. They were very creative with their roller coasters. I think they had a great time and it would be fun to do this again!