Roller-coaster fans are familiar with Cedar Point in Ohio and Great America in Illinois.
However, for a few days in early June the paper roller-coaster capital of the world was Kromrey Middle School.
Seventh-graders in Jeremy Dimpfl’s technology class created more than a dozen paper roller-coasters that were 3 to 4 feet high. The students had 14 days to complete the activity, although many came in outside of class, Dimpfl said.
The program was a pilot that Dimpfl plans to implement into the curriculum starting next year. He came up with the idea after attending a Wisconsin Technical and Engineering Association conference.
Students were encouraged to build the framework of the roller-coaster, then add any components. Part of the project was also to develop an understanding of potential and kinetic energy of their roller-coaster, he said. Students needed to be able to calculate the potential energy using math formulas and also had to identify where the kinetic energy was greatest and least, and explain why.
Students worked in groups of up to four per team. A marble was placed at the top of the roller-coaster and Dimpfl timed how long it took for the marble to stop. Teams were allowed three test runs.
It was really fun,’’ said Camille Wirkus, who had three other girls in her group. “I really liked trying to find ways to meet the requirements and adding our own touches.’’
The best time for the Wirkus team was 33 seconds.
“Our best time in practice was about 28 seconds,’’ she said. “We did better than we thought we were going to get.’’
Dimpfl admitted he was surprised by many of the students’ dedication.
“Some groups took the project to the next level,’’ he said. “One group determined they weren’t going to meet the required time limit so they developed an elevator mechanism that would trigger at the end of the coaster and take the marble back to the starting point to make the run again. Many groups also followed a common theme throughout their project, which added a nice touch to the finished project.’’
Dimpfl plans to do the activity next school year in the fall or winter when the air is drier. He noticed the high humidity in the spring wrecked havoc on some of the roller-coasters. He also said students will need to have at least three levels because anything less than that won’t lead to a successful project.
The program is all part of an increased focus on science, math and technology. Middleton High School is an official Project Lead The Way school. Gateway is the middle school version of PLTW. Kromrey isn’t an official Gateway school, but Dimpfl would like to see the middle school add more activities of this nature.
“Our goal is to inspire curiosity though the wide array of students that we see every day, and to create life-long learners of our ever-changing technological world,’’ he said.
Dimpfl already has one convert.
“I really liked this class,’’ she said. “I learned how to construct things and learned that the machines are easy to work.’’
Does she want to build real roller-coasters down the road?
“I don’t know about that,’’ Wirkus said, shaking her head and chuckling. “It was a lot of fun but it was a lot of hard work.’’
To see more photos, please visit the district's Facebook page.