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Roller Coaster Physics


Roller Coaster Physics :: Roller Coaster Physics





Rollercoaster Creator ExpressRollercoaster Creator ExpressUphill Rush 6Uphill Rush 6Los Angeles SharkLos Angeles SharkUphill Rush 5Uphill Rush 5




After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Explain why it is important for an engineer to know how a roller coaster works.
  • Explain in physics terms how their roller coaster works. 
  • Discuss the effects of gravity and friction in the context of their roller coaster designs.
  • Use the principle of conservation of energy to explain the layout of roller coasters.
  • Identify points in a roller coaster track at which the car has maximum kinetic energy and maximum potential energy.
  • Identify points in a roller coaster track where the car experiences more or less than one g-force.
  • Identify points in a roller coaster track where the car accelerates and decelerates.



Force: A force is any push or pull.
Gravity: Gravity is a force which draws any two objects toward one another.
Speed: Speed is how fast an object moves and is equal to the distance that object travels divided by the time it takes.
Velocity: Velocity is a combination of speed and the direction in which an object travels.
Critical Velocity: Critical velocity is the speed needed at the top of a loop for a car to make it through the loop without falling off the track.
Acceleration: How quickly an object speeds up, slows down, or changes direction; equal to change in velocity divided by time.
Friction: Friction is a force caused by rubbing between two objects.
Potential Energy: Potential energy is energy stored by an object ready to be used (in this lesson, we will use gravitational potential energy, which is directly related to the height of an object and its mass).
Kinetic Energy: Kinetic energy is the energy of an object in motion, which is directly related to its velocity and its mass.
Gravitational Constant: The gravitational constant is the acceleration caused by Earth's gravity at sea level and is equal to 9.81 m/s^2 (32.2 ft/s^2).
G-Force: Also known as a gravitational force, a g-force is equal to the force exerted on an object by Earth's gravity at sea level.



Design a Roller Coaster

Try your hand at designing your own roller coaster. You will be building a conceptual coaster using the physics concepts that are used to design real coasters. You won't need to compute any formulas.

You will decide the following - the height of the first hill, the shape of the first hill, the exit path, the height of the second hill, and the loop.

When you're done, your coaster will need to pass an inspection for both safety and fun.


Everything you ever wanted to know about Roller Coasters


How Roller Coasters Work

This site explains how roller coasters run. The second page has an animation that shows the point when potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. Other topics include forces, gravity, inertia, and acceleration. Note: The site includes advertising.


Amusement Park Physics: Roller Coaster

Design your own roller coaster and see if it passes a safety inspection. Take a look at "Free Fall" and "Related Resources" at the bottom of the page.


Roller Coaster Physics

Click on the different physics terms to learn more about how they relate to roller coasters. Includes information on both kinetic and potential energy.


Roller Coasters

Click on this timeline to learn more about the history of roller coasters.


ThinkQuest: The World of Roller Coaster

Learn history, math, and physics of roller coaster. This site also includes quiz to test your knowledge on roller coaster. Many links to other sites related to a roller coaster.


Discovery School: The Ultimate Roller Coaster Contest

This lesson has instructions for building tennis ball roller coasters in the classroom.


Build Coasters online


Easy Cat in the Hat Coaster



Coaster web q.mht






Rollercoaster Creator




RollerCoaster Rush
RollerCoaster Rush


Ghost Train Ride
Ghost Train Ride


Rollercoaster Creator
Rollercoaster Creator

8.5 / 10 - 20918

Rollercoaster Games

Race around all day long on your very own rollercoaster. You can make the climbs as steep as you like, the corners as fast and be sure to make people really nauseous by including some loopings.

Rollercoaster Revolution
Rollercoaster Revolution


Build Your Rollercoaster
Build Your Rollercoaster


Lethal Racing 2
Lethal Racing 2




John Doe Adventure
John Doe Adventure


Rollercoaster Rider
Rollercoaster Rider







Rollercoaster Rush

Thrill Your Riders!




Let's Build a model of the coaster we built online


Build a Roller Coaster

Step by Step is here






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