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Roller Coaster Design by Aditya and Tyler

We're Tyler and Aditya and we're roller coaster maniacs! We especially love steep hills, sharp turns, and crazy loop-de-loops. But we couldn't agree on which of these things makes a ride the most exciting. Here's our question: Where do you feel the most g's on a roller coaster?

What did we do?
We went the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, to ride their roller coaster simulator. It can be programmed to simulate the hills, turns, and loop-de-loops we wanted to study. We took a measuring device called an accelerometer to find out which part of the simulation gave us the most g-forces. The simulator doesn't produce the actual g's of a roller coaster, so we decided to take our accelerometers to a real roller coaster at a local amusement park called Kennywood. We rode the Phantom's Revenge a bunch of times, recording the number of g's on the accelerometer at different places along the ride.

What did we find out?
In our investigation, we learned that acceleration is speeding up, slowing down, or changing direction. We experienced the greatest g's at the bottom of the steep hill, when our direction changed quickly... almost 5 g's! We measured less than 1 g going over the top of another hill, where you get that funny feeling in your stomach.

What can you do?
• Hang a washer from a thread, and attach it to a cardboard guide, as shown in the drawing. This accelerometer works when you change your motion going forward or backward. Set up a 50 yard dash. Race with your friends, but see who can accelerate the most, not just who's got the fastest speed.

• Acceleration means to speed up, slow down, or change direction. Explore acceleration at school! Get a bungee cord, a skateboard, and head to the gymnasium. Have a friend sit on the skateboard, holding one end of the bungee cord. You take the other end. Starting at one end of the gym, slowly begin pulling your friend, watching the bungee cord stretch.

• Use this roller coaster investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!