A Not-for-profit program for students, scouts, campers, homeshcoolers , etc. to exhibit and participate competitively to recognize ingenuity and an interest in science and engineering (STEM).
Click Here To Make a
Tax-deductible Donation

Make It All About Marbles

           STEM Camp / Vacation Bible School - Marble Track Challenges

Camps and Vacation Bible Schools are an ideal setting for challenging teams to build a Marble Track using the Deluxe Marble Track Kit. Even more effective, I suggest you make each day a team competitions-Who Can Build The Best...." using the Super-Marble Track Kit. 
The following suggestions for daily challenges are designed to build on track building skills learned from the previous day's activity.  Teams may find the Loop-de-loop the biggest challenge.
I have also included Laws of Motion and Physics talking points at the end. 

Challenge #1   build a Straight-aways

Basic to all DIY Marble Track projects is the art of building track that is perfectly straight, rails level with each other and running parallel. To master this skill construct a track on a flat surface using lots of rail clips to support the track. You can also build the straight-away track on spacers attached to dowel rods. Test the track with a marble by slightly elevating one end of the track. You can witness the law of transfer of energy* on a straight-away by resting three or four marble, touching each other at the end of the track, and releasing a marble from end that is elevated, to collide with the resting marbles. 


Side-by-sideRacing.jpegChallenge #2  create a Slope or a Hill

To construct slope or a hill, shape the track to the desired curvature before attaching it to the spacers. Hold both track rails together and apply pressure with your thumbs and fingers every few inches. Next, beginning at the starting point of the track, attach one of the track rails to the spacers on the dowel rods. Then attach the second rail matching the profile of the first rail. The invisible forces of gravity become visible when you let go of a marble at the top of a slope - seeing the marble accelerates. The higher the starting point and slope the greater the acceleration.


Challenge #3  Build a Dual track

Pictured above is a side-by-side dual track, with a gradual slope and a straight-away track for racing marbles. The dual track is constructed with two spacers assembled together (Fig 4) and attached to each dowel rod.  If you have enough track supplies you can build a race track with starting points at both ends of the track.

 Challenge #4 CREATE a Jump ramp

To create a Jump Ramp, (Track #1 in picture below) that launches a marble airborne to a container past the end of the track, angle the end of the track upward at a 45-degree angle. You will need a container to catch the marbles.






 Challenge #5 CircleTrack.jpegCreate circles and Corner turns

CircleSideView2Spacers.jpegTo create a Circle, set out dowel rods B and C as shown here to support the circle.  Two spacers should be attached to dowel rod B. Sketch a drawing, mapping the route of the track from the beginning, around a 360-degree circle and to the end. Refer to you sketch as you layout the track, loosely shaping both rails at the same time, before attaching the rails to the track.

Attach the inside track first, then the outside track. Test the track often with a marble from the beginning.  Add extra rail clips around the circle to keep the track running parallel.  Angle spacers B and C upward so the outside rail provides a bank to keep the marbles from flying off the track.


Challenge #6  Build a Marble Track Sculptures

Marble Track Sculptures (pictured below) are typically built more permanently for fun and team competition.  Award points for each feature included in the sculpture: 1 point for each 90-degree turn, 1 point for each hill or 3-inch hump, 2 points for a 180-degree circle, and 5 points for a loop-de-loop. A sculpture is complete when a marble can successfully navigate the course 3 times.


Challenge #7 Create a Loop-de-loop

To add a Loop-de-loop, place three spacers on the dowel rod that will support the loop - one upside down at point A and one on each side of the dowel at point B (Fig 13).

LoopDeLoopStraw2.jpegShape the configuration of the inside rail of the loop first, then add the outside rail so the curvature of both rails match.

Test the track often with a marble from the beginning. Add extra rail clips around the loop to keep the rails running parallel.

To add height to the track’s release point, which will insure the marbles have enough critical velocity to make the loop, stack two dowel rods end-to-end (Fig 13), coupled together inside a ½-inch piece of clear vinyl tubing. A large plastic drinking straw might also work.


Watch for invisible forces at work. (Talking Points)


[] The invisible force of Gravity, which attracts everything toward Earth, is constantly pulling straight down on the marble on the track.

[] This gravitational force creates Potential Energy in the marble. Resting on the track this Potential Energy is just setting there ready to do something. The higher the elevation of the marble on the track, the greater the gravitational force and the more energy it has stored inside.

[] Conversion of Energy occurs when marble is released and starts moving from the top of the hill. The marble’s (stored) Potential Energy converts to another form of Energy called Kinetic Energy – energy in motion. The downward force of Gravity draws the marble down the hill. The steeper the hill, the faster the marble can move, creating more and more (Kinetic) Energy - Acceleration, Velocity and Momentum.

[] Approaching a hill some (Kinetic) Energy is taken away (converted back to Potential  Energy), so the marble slows down, but hopefully it has Conserved enough energy to make it all the way to the end of the track.

[] Friction, anything on the track’s surface that resists the marble’s forward movement, especially track rails that are not straight and running parallel, will slow the marble down.

[]At the end of the track the upward lift force from the ski-jump type ramp launches the marble into the air, following an arching curved flight path called a Parabolic Curve. Instead of going straight, Gravity shows up, pulling it down.

[] Three forces affect the marble’s flight path – its Trajectory: Momentum, Gravity and the angle of the ramp

                                               Sculpture: Four Marble Runs

#1  "Cannon Ball Run" launches a marble, airborne in a Parabolic Curve path.

#2  "Loop-de-loop Run" exhibits the g-Forces a marble must feel when it reaches Critical Velocity.

#3  "Circular Run" a marbles are held on a Circular Dual Track due to the Centripetal Force provided by the banking angle of the outside rail. 

#4  "Collision Course" shows the Transfer of Energy when a marble in motion collides with marbles at rest on the track.



Website Builder