Marble Run

Ideas or Inquiries

Using the materials provided, design a structure that will have your marble travel the farthest distance.

Vocabulary

Distance—the amount of space between two things or people

Height—the distance from the bottom to the top of a person or thing

Slope—a surface which one end or side is at a higher level than the other

Speed—the rate at which someone or something is able to move or operate

Inertia—the resistance of any physical object to any change in its state of motion

Gravity—the force that attracts objects with mass toward the earth or toward each other

Supplies (per group)

  • 1 lunch bag
  • 1 marble
  • 2 paper cups
  • 2 paper food trays
  • 2 coffee straws
  • 2 wooden popsicle sticks
  • 1 piece of 8.5 x 11 inch office paper
  • 1 piece of 8.5 x 11 inch cardstock
  • 2 takeout containers
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 4 feet of masking tape

How-to

  1. Divide your classroom into two main areas, the Building area and the Testing area.
  2. While in their Building area, spilt students into even groups and provide each group with the materials listed above, minus the marble.
  3. Tell students that their challenge is to design a structure that will make their marble travel the farthest distance using ONLY the materials provided.  Their structure must able to move from one area to another (cannot be taped to the floor).
  4. Give students 12 minutes to collaborate and build their structure.
  5. After 12 minutes, each group must move their structure to the Testing area where they can begin testing their structure with the marble (given by instructor) for about 5 more minutes. During this period, students may revise their structure but it must be moved back to the Building area before it can be worked on.
  6. At the end of 5 minutes, all structures must be finished and lined up at the Testing area, ready for a final group.
  7. Have each group drop their marble onto their structure at the same time and observe which one when the farthest.   
  8. Have students reflect on their process, talk about what worked/didn’t work, and what factors could have contributed to the result that they observed.    

Follow-up

  • Try including other building materials of your own choice.
  • Have students measure and record the height, slope, and speed of their structure and the distance their marble traveled. Compare with other students’ results.
  • Try using balls made from different materials to use on their ramps; is there a difference in its speed? Distance traveled?
  • Halfway through the design process, pose a challenge for students that forces them to change their design midway; e.g. all balls must not only travel the farthest, but turn to the right.     

 

Printable version, here.