Having your marble successfully stay on the track and completing a circuit is exciting. Students are often thrilled when they combine tracks and create large runs.
Marble runs are popular toys in our classroom. This experiment allows students to create their own marble runs with foam pipe insulation and masking tape. Students tape the foam tracks to the walls, the tables, chairs and even themselves. You can also break into groups to combine materials and make larger and more elaborate tracks.
• Foam pipe insulation: 6" × 1" is common but you can use numerous sizes
• Masking tape or blue painters tape
Click on the images below to see the items at Amazon. I have tried to pick links with the best value and price from Amazon but you might want to search a bit for the price and quantities that suit your needs.
Home Depot and Lowe's have the least expensive 1" x 6 ft pipe insulation.
1. Cut some of the pipe insulation in half, length wise to create tracks. Leave some pieces as tubes. Have some 6" lengths and some 3" lengths; cut them down further if desired.
2. Create tracks, runs and drops by taping the foam to the walls, chairs, tables and seeing how marbles move through. You can even wrap track around your body and create a spiral run.
HOW TO PRESENT IT TO YOUR GROUP:
1. Talk about the physics and engineering involved in making the marble run and in how the marble moves.
2. Give each student an equal amount of foam track pieces. I usually give them two 6" split pieces and one 6" tube each. If they want smaller lengths, I cut them from their 6" pieces.
3. Share rolls of tape between 2 or 3 people.
4. You can work with a partner or in teams to create larger runs.
5. Give them each a marble and watch them go.
The marble has potential energy that is ready to be released when it is at the top of the run. That energy turns into kinetic energy (motion) when it rolls down the hill. Gravity determines the speed of marble motion; steeper angles make faster runs.
VOCABULARY: energy, potential energy, kinetic energy, gravity, angles