STEM Roller Coaster Challenge

Build a roller coaster out of straws and a cardboard box in this engineering design challenge your middle school students (and even older) will love.

Teams will earn points for:  

  1. length of track
  2. height of roller coaster (every 10 cm)
  3. each 90° turn
  4. each 180° turns
  5. track that raises more than 5 cm
  6. keeping ball on track entire ride
  7. speed cm/sec

You will lose points for:

  1. car stalling on the track
  2. car leaving the track
  3. every straw you use over 75

Your  “car” will be a ping pong.  Do not attempt to have your car go upside down.  Your car will start at the highest point. 


  1. acceleration:
  2. critical velocity:   
  3. force:  
  4. friction:  
  5. g-force:   
  6. gravity:  
  7. kinetic energy:  
  8. potential energy:  
  9. speed:   
  10. velocity:  

Download lesson templates: roller coaster


Thanks to Norm Sotomayor at Fortuna Middle School for this project!