Coaster Dynamics: Coaster Lab Intro
Coaster Icon What is the Coaster Lab?
The Coaster Lab is a set of companion materials to Coaster Dynamics that help teach basic concepts in science and physics using your computer as a virtual laboratory for conducting experiments.

A key to the
Coaster Lab is the "Data Watchpoint" -- a unique feature of Coaster Dynamics.

Watchpoints are pre-defined points on every roller coaster track. At each of these points, you can determine the physical parameters describing the motion of the roller coaster car. These parameters are:   speed, distance, position, velocity, and G force.

An example Watchpoint Display is shown below for a Round Loop.

Watchpoints Screen

By analyzing data like this, you can determine the location and magnitude of the maximum G force in the loop. This allows you to experiment and determine, for instance, how the G force varies with the loop size.

There are 3 main components of the Coaster Lab.

First, during the design of your roller coaster,
Coaster Dynamics will provide Design Hints when a problem occurs -- for instance, when the G force in a loop is too large, or the speed is too slow or too fast. The Design Hints will suggest a way to correct the problem, and offer further information which will allow you to calculate a solution to the problem. These solutions explore such topics as forces and Newton's Laws of Motion, potential and kinetic energy, conservation of energy, and friction & work.

Coaster Lab Screen

Second, the Coaster Lab includes a set of Coaster Lab Lessons suitable for use in a classroom. The Coaster Lab Lessons are laboratory exercises designed to fit into a typical classroom format, and cover fundamental topics normally included in the study of dynamics and Newtonian Mechanics. The lessons are consistent with the curricula of most first-semester courses in introductory physics.

The mathematics background needed to use the
Coaster Lab include a basic understanding of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and vector analysis in 2 and 3 dimensions. Also included are some optional advanced study topics which utilize beginning calculus (derivatives and integrals).

Answers to the
Coaster Lab Lessons are available to registered users of Coaster Dynamics. The answer sets can be viewed by selecting the "Coaster Lab" option in Coaster Dynamics. To access the answers, you will need to enter a Software License Password -- which can be obtained by paying a Software License Fee and becoming a registered Coaster Dynamics user. Please note that Coaster Dynamics is a shareware product. With the exception of the Coaster Lab Answers, you can freely use Coaster Dynamics for evaluation purposes only.

The third component of the
Coaster Lab is the Coaster Dynamics Physics Primer -- which is a summary guide to the physics of roller coasters. It covers the basic topics in Newtonian Mechanics required to understand and analyze roller coaster motion. It is an excellent supplemental resource which can be used in conjunction with a comprehensive physics textbook.

Coaster Lab Lessons and Coaster Dynamics Physics Primer can be viewed and/or printed using the web browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape) installed on your computer.
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