Computer Program Detail Page
written by Michael R. Gallis
edited by Wolfgang Christian
content provider: Barbara Christian, Anne Cox, and Mario Belloni
The EJS Roller Coaster model explores the relationship between kinetic, potential, and total energy as a cart travels along a roller coaster. Students can choose from five track configurations or create their own roller coaster curve and observe the resulting motion. As the simulation plays, energy bar graphs show the changing levels of kinetic and potential energy. Switch to "stepped motion" to see points at which both forms of energy reach maximum and minimum levels. Users can also control the initial speed of the cart and add friction, enabling the resource to be adaptable to a range of levels from middle school through high school.
This item was created with Easy Java Simulations (EJS), a modeling tool that allows users without formal programming experience to generate computer models and simulations. To run the simulation, simply click the Java Archive file below.
Please note that this resource requires at least version 1.5 of Java (JRE).
Editor's Note: Don't miss the lesson plan with accompanying guide sheets for both teachers and students. Click "Supplemental Documents" below. See Annotations for additional background information on the physics of roller coasters, recommended by The Physics Front editors.
View the supplemental documents attached to this resource (4)
The EJS Roller Coaster Energy Model: Teacher Version shows the motion and energy of a car on a roller coaster track. You can change the track shape and add… more...
download 1290kb .jar
Published: June 17, 2009
The EJS Roller Coaster Energy Model: Student Version is a simulation for physical science (middle and high) school students. It shows the motion and energy… more...
download 996kb .jar
Published: June 17, 2009
A pdf file with a teacher lesson plan for use with the Roller Coaster Energy Model. This lesson plan is also packaged within the teacher version of the… more...
download 145kb .pdf
Published: June 17, 2009
View the source code document attached to this resource
AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)
4. The Physical Setting
4E. Energy Transformations
11. Common Themes
12. Habits of Mind
12C. Manipulation and Observation
Common Core State Standards for Mathematics Alignments
Standards for Mathematical Practice (K-12)
MP.4 Model with mathematics.
Ratios and Proportional Relationships (6-7)
Understand ratio concepts and use ratio reasoning to solve problems. (6)
Expressions and Equations (6-8)
Reason about and solve one-variable equations and inequalities. (6)
Work with radicals and integer exponents. (8)
Use functions to model relationships between quantities. (8)
NSES Content Standards
Con.B: Physical Science
The Physics Classroom: Energy Transformation on a Roller Coaster (Editor: Caroline Hall)
This animated tutorial is part of The Physics Classroom collection, and provides additional background information on the transformation of energy on a roller coaster and a good explanation of why mechanical energy is conserved.
This resource is part of 2 Physics Front Topical Units.
Topic: Kinematics: The Physics of Motion
Unit Title: The Case of Roller Coasters
Roller coasters offer an inherently interesting way to study energy transformation in a system. This simulation lets students choose from 5 track configurations or create their own design, then watch the resulting motion. Energy bar graphs are simultaneously displayed as the coaster runs its course. Students can adjust the initial speed and friction, or switch to stepped motion to see exact points where kinetic and potential energy reach maximum and minimum levels. Includes lesson plan and student guide.Link to Unit:
Topic: Conservation of Energy
Unit Title: Conservation of Energy
Roller coasters offer an inherently interesting way to study energy transformation. This scaffolded activity lets students choose from 5 track configurations or create their own design, then observe the resulting motion. Energy bar graphs are simultaneously displayed as the roller coaster runs its course. Students can adjust the initial speed of the car, add friction, or switch to stepped motion to see the exact points at which kinetic and potential energy reach maximum and minimum levels. Includes lesson plan and student guide.Link to Unit:
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Roller Coaster Model:
Same topic as Teachers' Domain: Energy Transfer in a Roller Coaster
In this self-paced multimedia tutorial for middle school, students develop literacy skills as they explore kinetic and potential energy in a roller coaster.relation by Caroline Hall
Same topic as Teach Engineering: Physics of Roller Coasters
In this hands-on activity for grades 7-9, students build a physical model of a roller coaster with foam pipe insulation and marbles. Includes assessments, rubric, and worksheet.relation by Caroline Hall
Is Based On Easy Java Simulations Modeling and Authoring Tool
The Easy Java Simulations Modeling and Authoring Tool is needed to explore the computational model used in the Roller Coaster.relation by Mario Belloni
Is a Teaching Guide For Physics Classroom: Roller Coasters and Amusement Park Physics
Is a Teaching Guide For Physics Classroom: The Centripetal Force Requirement
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