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Roller Coasters by Christopher and Zahabiya

We spend as much time as we can at our favorite amusement park. Since we especially love the perilous climbs and shocking descents of the bigger, more "wild" rides, we wondered if we could actually measure its "thrill factor." Our question: How does your pulse rate correspond to the scariness of a roller coaster ride?

What did we do?
We gathered a bunch of our friends and went on three different rides: Supreme Scream, Ghostrider and Boomerang. We taught our friends how to find their pulse rates. Our friends took their pulse rates before going on each ride and again right after the ride was over. Each person wrote down his or her pulse rate on a card. We subtracted the two readings to find the increase in each person's pulse rate. Our friends also recorded how scary they thought each ride was, on a scale of 1 to 5. At the end, we averaged up the numbers for each ride and looked for any patterns.

What did we find out?
We learned that there was a relationship between heart rate change and a ride's "scariness." Our friends felt that the Ghostrider was the least scary ride, with an average rating of 2.4. The average increase in heart rate was 33.5 beats per minute. Our friends gave Boomerang a higher scariness rating of 2.6 and the average increase of pulse rate was 46.8 beats per minute. The scariest rating went to the Supreme Scream at 3.7, with the average pulse rate increase totaling 54.0 beats per minute.

What can you do?
  • What is your favorite amusement park ride? Measure your pulse rate before and after the ride and see how much it increases. How does your pulse rate compare to a friend's?
  • What other properties of a roller coaster make it thrilling? Speed? Number of twists and turns? Start your own investigation and find out what makes a ride scary.
  • Use this human body investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
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