Imagine the sounds of buzzing insects, caws of Toucans, and the howling of monkeys as you zoom past the red eyes of a tree frog. It’s hot and humid and the leaves of a Rubber Tree splash drops of water on your face as you travel downhill at a high rate of speed. Using the concepts of potential energy, kinetic energy and gravity, fifth graders at Somers Intermediate School tried their hands at creating the ultimate thrill ride – a roller coaster that traverses the Amazon Rain Forest.
Students used items like wide cardboard strips, masking tape, paper rolls, a poster board and a vivid imagination to design and engineer their own zig-zag roller coasters to navigate the four layers of the Amazon rain forest. Fifth graders worked in teams to design, tape, cut, and redesign their roller coasters in this engaging STEM activity, presented through Challenge Island this week.
By placing the cardboard strips at angles against a poster board, students could see if their roller coaster car (a small plastic ball) successfully zig-zagged down the tracks to deposit itself at the bottom. Each traverse had to go through a level of the rain forest – emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor. While some teams created barriers at the end of each angle, others made holes to guide the ball down the track.
“We wanted to cut a hole in the toilet paper toll so that the ball dropped right down to the next level,” said Cameron Linares. Her teammate Max Grodio said he thought that was the best idea to keep the ball going down.
Ava Parkin and Maggie Mancini used their imaginations and a little trial and error to get their roller coaster angles just right. They both created a similar project in Girl Scouts that helped them design their Rain Forest Coaster.
Teacher Brenda DeBellis said the fifth-grade classes prepared for the Challenge Island activity by learning about both rain forests and extreme roller coaster rides.