straw roller coaster

Make your own amusement park and learn about structural engineering!

Make your own amusement park and learn about structural engineering!

It’s true: What goes up, must come down. But how and when it comes down, where it lands, and how successfully is entirely up to us! Let’s make a “roller coaster” for a ping-pong ball while learning all about structural engineering. Remember to start high, end low, and consider speed!

Straw Roller Coaster

What You’ll Need:

  • Foam core board
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pencil or pen
  • Plastic multicolored drinking straws
  • Scissors
  • Small plastic cup or bowl
  • Table tennis ball
  • Tape

Words To Know:

    • Beams: Two straws placed vertically, an inch away from each other, to support the rails.
    • Connector: An inch of plastic straw that connects the top of two beams.
    • Rails: Straws fixed between beams horizontally, sloping downward from beam to beam.

    Steps:

    • Place your foam core board on a flat surface.
    • On the corner of the board, use the pencil or pen to slowly punch a small hole into it — perfect for fitting a straw.
    • Make another hole an inch away from the first one.
    • Pinch the tip of one straw and fit it into the end of another one, connecting them together.
    • Repeat that step, creating the first two beams of your coaster.
    • Set the beams aside.
    • Next, make the connector by cutting an inch-long piece of a third straw to fit between beams.
    • Secure the connector near the top of your two straw beams with hot glue.
    • Place hot glue into the holes of the foam core board, and place the bottom of the straws into them, hold in place for a few seconds until secure.
    • Note, these will be the tallest beams you make. All others have to be sequentially shorter.
    • Repeat this process, creating successively shorter beams that will serpentine down the board.
    • Use tape to connect rails to your beams — they should slope downward from beam to beam.
    • Test proper widths and slope with the table tennis ball as you go to ensure the ball stays on the track.
    • When your coaster is complete, drop the ball from the top rail and let gravity do its thing!