The Perse School

Year 8 learn the maths & physics behind rollercoaster design

2 Mar 2015

For three days during half-term, 42 Year 8 pupils descended on Disneyland Paris to study the maths and physics of rollercoaster design. All pupils had undertaken three hours of extra after-school lessons before the trip, in which they studied the application of energy, forces, speed, acceleration and gyroscopic motion to theme park rides. With forces over 5g leading to loss of vision and those over 10g resulting in certain death (!) engineers need to balance the intensity of a ride with safety at all times.

While at Disneyland, pupils were asked to download the free “SensorLog” app onto their smartphones, which recorded GPS, motion and acceleration data from each ride. These will then be collated and analysed in subsequent lessons after the trip. The pupils also enjoyed two further rollercoaster maths seminars, including behind-the-scenes footage from the Disney engineers, presented in the Gaumont cinema each morning.

But most importantly of all, pupils were given plenty of free time to experience the thrill of the rides and the magic of Disney for themselves. The packed schedule, including hotly contested Maths quizzes back at the hotel, and a Disney-themed photo challenge race around the parks, ensured that everybody returned happy but exhausted by the end of the trip!

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