The Mummy's Tomb - Raceways

Guess What?

The Mummy is trying to build a roller coaster to entertain the Atom's Family monsters and needs your help with the concepts of Kinetic and Potential energy. Help your Mummy by participating in the following activity.

What you'll need:

two chairs

masking tape

yard or meter sticks

3 shooter marbles

one 8 feet strip of vinyl ceiling molding

What to do:

1. Tape the ends of the track on opposing 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 surface that the track is laying on.

2. 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. In what position(s) was the marble when it was illustrating potential and kinetic energy?

3. Other possible discovery experiments:

  • What is the ratio between the spot where the marble goes down to the spot where the marble goes up? Keep a chart of each measurement.
  • What will happen when one marble is at rest on the track and another is dropped on the track?

So what?

Energy is the ability of matter to move other matter or to produce a chemical change in other matter. Scientists define energy as the ability to do work. Work is defined by scientists as only being done when a force, which is usually a push or a pull, is moved through a distance.

Mechanical energy is the form of energy that we see around us. All moving objects produce mechanical energy.

Kinetic energy is the energy of motion.

Potential energy is the energy that a substance or object has because of its condition or position. Potential is also called stored up energy. When potential energy is set free, it is changed into kinetic energy.

Now what?

This activity illustrates potential and kinetic energy. To establish potential energy, you must first establish the conditions of the situation for energy. For example, the height or distance of the ends of the track from the floor is different than the height or distance of the ends of the track from the seat of the chairs. Therefore, you must establish the conditions of height or distance. The marble held at the end of the track with the established conditions of height or distance has the potential to MOVE the length of that established distance or height if a force, namely that of gravity, were to release the potential energy of the marble. Once the marble is let go, the force of gravity (a pulling force) releases the potential of the marble to drop and the marble drops the established distance or height. Work has been done. Work is the force times the distance.

The marble gains energy by traveling down the slanted track. The higher the marble's starting point, the greater the energy it has at the bottom. On top of each hill the amount of energy the marble has is called potential energy. When you place the marble in the valley, or at the bottom of the big U, it doesn't go anywhere. Its potential energy is ZERO. However, when it rolls into this valley from the top of the track, it keeps traveling. The marble at that point is said to have kinetic energy. The kinetic energy enables the moving marble to travel up the next hill.

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

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