The Mummy's Tomb - Raceways
Guess What?
The Mummy is building a roller coaster to entertain the Atom's Family monsters and needs your help with the concepts of Kinetic and Potential energy. Help the Mummy by making a model roller coaster.

What you'll need:

two chairs

masking tape

yard sticks

3 shooter marbles

one 8-foot strip of vinyl ceiling molding

What to do:

1. Place the chairs back to back, but about 3 feet apart.

2. Tape the ends of the track to the chairs so that the center hangs down to the floor like the letter U. Use masking tape to secure the bottom of the track to the floor.

3. Place a marble on one end of the track and let it roll down. How many times did the marble travel back and forth before it stopped in the middle? This activity illustrates potential and kinetic energy. Where was the marble when it had the most potential energy? Where was it when it had the most kinetic energy?

4. Other possible discovery experiments:

  • Measure the highest point each time the marble rolls up the track. Keep a chart of each measurement. Why doesn't the marble rise as far up? Can you find the amount of energy that is lost on each trip?
  • What will happen when one marble is at rest on the track and another is dropped on the track? What if two marbles are on the track?
So what?

Scientists define energy as the ability to do work, that is to make things move or to make new chemical compounds. Work is done when a force (a push or a pull) acts on something for a distance.

Mechanical energy is the most common type of energy that we see around us. All moving objects have a type of mechanical energy called kinetic energy. When they move, they can lose energy to friction which creates heat and noise. Or the kinetic energy can be stored up as potential energy.

Potential energy is the energy that a substance or object has because of its condition (e.g., the chemical potential energy of gasoline) or position (e.g., the gravitational potential energy of a car on a hill). Potential energy can be changed into kinetic energy, which can be changed back into potential energy. For example, a car's engine changes the chemical potential energy of gasoline into the kinetic energy of its speed along the highway. When the car coasts up a hill, it changes the kinetic energy into gravitational potential energy.

Now what?

This activity shows how energy can change from potential to kinetic and back again. When the marble is at the top of the track, it has more potential energy than when it is at the bottom. As it goes down the track, it moves faster and faster (it accelerates) due to the pull of gravity. This changes the potential energy into kinetic energy. At the bottom of the track, the marble is going the fastest and has the most kinetic energy. As it climbs back up, gravity slows it down and the kinetic energy is changed back into potential energy.

Report back to your Mummy and tell him what you've learned!

Atoms Family Mummy Phantom Dracula Wolf Man Frankenstein Credits

You can buy this resource on CD-ROM for use on computers without internet access.
Visit our online store for more information!