My teen learned how to make these roller coasters a few years back in a course on roller coaster physics. On a recent trip to the hardware store (there are many), he picked up a several bags of 3/4 inch foam pipe insulation. Each bag come with several pieces and costs just a couple of dollars.
The Maker Teen and his brother headed to our unfinished basement with a roll of duct tape and a marble and got to work. If you're concerned about marking up your interior walls or don't have a basement, a garage might be a good place to try this.
Basically, you join the tubes together with duct tape and experiment until you find a design that looks cool and works, i.e. the marble doesn't get stuck midway. Though the design pictured doesn't have any large loops, it's possible to make them.
Their creation had an interesting segment near the end where the marble rolled uphill passing over a hole until it ran out of momentum, then slid back down into said hole.
I had nothing to do with their design. It's just as well. If I had my hands in it, I would have created a more blog and video friendly design and interfered with their fun. I love that my boys did this on their own (together!) and only called me down to test it out and take a few photos.
To add more science to the fun, this site will help you discuss concepts like potential energy, kinetic energy and Newton's Laws of Motion.
If you try a project from The Maker Mom, we'd love to see it. Share a photo on our Facebook wall!
Watch our videos on YouTube.