IMiddle students learn mechanics of rollercoasters

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | Olivia Cockrell, left, Eh Moo, and Nolan Prater, all 8th-graders, work on constructing a rollercoaster out of tape, pipe insulation and cardboard boxes to learn about physics and engineering practices during a class on Thursday at iMiddle.

Students in the new Owensboro Public Schools project-based iMiddle began their first project of the school year Thursday after a few days of instruction in the classroom.

iMiddle, or Innovation Middle, serves 280 sixth- through eighth-grade students. It is a part of the district's innovation program that invokes project-based learning. It will act as a sister school to the Owensboro Innovation Academy.

Crystal Adams, who teaches eighth-grade math and science, said students began their rollercoaster projects with research. After that, they developed sketches of what they would like their coasters to look like, and on Thursday, they were in the construction stage of bringing their designs to life.

iMiddle Director Mark Moore said students and staff spent time on culture building, what it takes to be a project-based learning school and what school expectations will be. Earlier this week, school facilitators had a member of SKY Engineering come in and talk with students about the mechanics of rollercoasters, and their first project then became building one.

"We like to really concentrate on all aspects of the projects, especially what we call the entry point of the project because that helps get the kids motivated," Moore said, adding that the school will be bringing in community partners to help introduce students into a real-world application of their projects. "It helps give them momentum through the project."

Some of the projects will be imaginary, but the rollercoaster projects will actually be submitted to Kentucky Kingdom for review. Whichever student group's design wins the contest will get a reward. Moore said he is working on figuring out how to get the winning student group behind the scenes at a local amusement park.

Once the coasters are built, students will then be coming up with a script and a sales pitch to "sell their model" to Kentucky Kingdom, Adams said.

Deghen Riggs, 14, said he liked how the project was presented, and that beginning the rollercoaster build with research and a sketch/design period was helpful. He and his group obtained some extra materials to help them bring their project to fruition, which he thought would give them a "leg up."

"This is a fun way to learn," the eighth-grader said.

Keshawn Adamsbray, 13, agreed, adding that he enjoyed listening to the guest speaker from SKY Engineering talk about all of the components of building a rollercoaster.

"He told the things we need to use and all the engineering aspects of rollercoasters," the eighth-grader said. "He told us to keep in mind how far they drop down, and to make sure whatever cars we use stop in a timely fashion, and not too fast."

Moore said the rollercoaster project is one of several that students will be completing throughout the school year, and involving the community is a critical part of project-based learning.

"It's almost impossible nowadays to fully educate a child by yourself," he said. "We are using all our staff members, and we are using the community to help with content, and to help us judge projects and give feedback on them. We really do want it to be a community effort to help us educate our kids."

Bobbie Hayse,, 270-691-7315.

(1) comment

Suki Coleman

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