The Lesson

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Students will be making marble roller coasters for this challenge. While simple, this activity incorporates math, science, engineering, and technology and can be easily scaled up or down depending on grade level. For more information about alignment visit the Standards page.


These supplies are intended for a classroom of approximately 30 students. Additional consumables may need to be purchased for larger classes and/or multiple sections.

  • 1 package of paper plates
  • Marbles
  • Cardboard
  • Cardstock (optional)
  • Packing tape
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks (optional)
  • Ruler/meter stick/measuring tape (optional)

Activity Directions

Marble Roller Directions
  • Feel free to use this Slide deck to explain the activity to your students or print it out for easy reference.
  • We strongly recommend you try this activity first before implementing it with students.
  • Specific activity ideas can be found below in the "Share Your Lesson Ideas" section.

Share Your Ideas

Please share your questions and ideas using the links below:

You will need to be logged into you CPS account to post and will be prompted to join our Google Group if you haven't done so already.

Also please consider posting your ideas on social media using #oneSTEMchi.

After the Activity - Videos

Have you students watch this video created by a roller coaster engineer at Six Flags Great America. Todd, the engineer, discusses how the marble roller coaster activity relates to his everyday work as an engineer.

The Penn State University Theme Park Engineering Group created this video about the physics behind the marble roller coaster video.

After the Activity - Discussion Questions

  1. How did your group conduct your planning for the challenge?
  2. How did you structure roles in your group?
  3. How did you test your design?
  4. If you were going to conduct this challenge again, what would you change about your planning? What would you change about your execution?
  5. How does this activity relate to the job of the roller coaster designer or engineer?
  6. Is this a career that you might be interested in pursuing one day? Why or why not?

Prepping students for Day 2

On Day 2 your class will be discussing the activity with another classroom. If you haven't already selected a partner teacher, please follow the directions on the Register page.

  1. Tell your students that they will be speaking with another classroom tomorrow. Share any details and photos you might have received from your partner teacher with your students.
  2. With your o over expectations for how students should conduct themselves during the video chat and what the process will look like. You should have already discussed this with your partnering teacher (Will one class go first? How many students from each class will share?).
  3. Have students prepare artifacts that they want to share during the conversation. This can be videos, photos, their towers (if they are still standing), or graphs.
  4. Have your students draft up questions to ask students in your partnering classroom. Have them write the questions on index cards so they are prepared for the conversation. Teachers with younger students, English language learners, or students with special needs might even want to write your own questions on index cards and assign them to students to ask.

Video Conferencing on Day 2

All arrangements for Day 2 are to be made between partnering teachers. You can choose to video conference using Skype or Google Hangout. Click the links for step-by-step instructions.

Share pictures and videos of your students conferencing on social media using #oneSTEMchi. If you decide to record your video conference, please share the link on Twitter and email it to