Education Technology

Physics: Energy of a Roller Coaster

by Texas Instruments - Simulation Lesson


  • Students will explore the relationship between work and energy.
  • Students will explore energy transformations related to the motion of a roller coaster with and without friction.


  • conservative vs. non-conservative forces
  • gravitational potential energy
  • kinetic energy
  • total mechanical energy
  • work

About the Lesson

This lesson begins with an exploration of the relationships between work, potential energy, and kinetic energy using. The simulation uses a block that is either lifted and dropped or is pulled up an incline and allowed to slide back down. These concepts are then applied to a simulation of a roller coaster car moving along a track.
As a result, students will:

  • Observe that an external force doing positive work increases the mechanical energy of an object, while friction causes a decrease in mechanical energy.
  • Describe how energy transforms between potential and kinetic forms, and, in the absence of friction, the total mechanical energy remains constant.
  • Relate the concepts of work and energy to the design and motion of a roller coaster.

This activity was created using Lua. Learn more about Lua in TI-Nspire here.