Education Technology

Physical Science: Energetic Coasters

by Texas Instruments - Simulation Lesson


  • Students will explore the potential energy (PE) and kinetic energy (KE) of a roller coaster.
  • Students will explore energy transformations related to the motion of a roller coaster with and without friction.


  • conservative vs. non-conservative forces
  • kinetic energy (KE)
  • potential energy (PE)
  • total energy
  • work

About the Lesson

In this lesson, students begin with an exploration of the relationships between work, potential energy, and kinetic energy. 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.