The Ivy Center for Education recently hosted a “Staying on Track with Roller Coaster Building” event.

Sederick Charles Rice, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, worked with students to complete STEM Explorations using K’nex Education Roller Coaster Building Sets.

Students learned about physical forces (potential energy, acceleration, centripetal force, momentum, gravitational potential energy, deceleration, and terminal velocity) in roller coaster design and function, according to a news release.

Students also learned how to work as a team to understand the relationship between speed, distance and time in roller coaster construction. Students also watched YouTube videos about the tallest roller coasters in the world.

Ivy Center participants were: Tir’zah Walden, Keiyawnia Walden, Christopher Carter, Kelli Jones, Ronald Shelton, Brian Livingston, Zora Little, Kaylee Jones, Keaten Daniel, Ja’Korbyn Tyler and Jermayia Brown.

Students said they always enjoyed riding roller coasters and now understand the physics of speed and why they do not jump the track, according to the release.

“Learning when the roller coaster takes a sharp turn and loops upside down passengers have a sensation of being pushed outwards, that is, away from the loop,” Livingston said.

“This is caused by inertia. Therefore, when you are in an upside-down loop, although gravity is pulling you downwards, the force of acceleration due to the motion of the roller coaster is much stronger than the force of gravity. This force of acceleration is pushing you upwards, pushing you further into your seat so you don’t fall off while spinning around the top of a loop,” he said.

Jones also learned from the experience.

“I learned that the action of a roller coaster has a lot to do with a special type of force called centripetal force,” Jones said. “This is the force that acts on a body moving in a circular motion and is always directed towards the center of the circular motion of that body. It is the force that makes the roller coaster run a circular path without falling off of the track.”

Carter said the event was part one of Staying on track with roller coaster building project.

“I cannot wait for part 2 and the continuation of working with Dr. Rice and my team as we build a replica of a high speed roller coaster,” he said.

Mattie Collins is president and Patricia Berry is executive director of the Ivy Center for Education.

The board of directors, parents, mentors and community supporters are excited about the bright futures of their students, a spokeswoman said.

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