Make it jump

To design a 3D catcher for a marble in a roller coaster construction

Title: Make it jump!
Subject: Physics and design
Aim/goal/question: To design a 3D catcher for a marble in a roller coaster construction
End product: A perfect catcher for a marble that has jumped 20 cm
Age group: 10 yrs -adults
Group size: 15
Estimated time: 180 minutes (printing time not included)

Equipment/material: A3 paper, pencils, rulers, pens, paper, tinkercad, marbles, building material for marble rolller-coasters (such as paper, toliet rolls, tape, soft tubing for pipes or other suitable materials), chairs and walls to tape the roller-coaster on (it will need some hights)

1.Divide the large group into smaller groups of 3-4 people. Hand out materials for building a marble roller- coaster. Explain that the roller-coaster has a specifik challenge – the marble has to have the right amount of kinetic energy that it is possible for it to jump at least 20 cm at one point.

2. Start building the roller-coaster. The group will find out that it is very hard to manage the 20 cm jump without having something that will specifically catch the marble. When they find that out – give them the task to construct a catcher in a 3D program and print it.

3. Start the Tinkercad program on computers or tablets and start working. There will be a number of questions that rise during this phase, such as:

  • How wide does the catcher need to be – on top/bottom?
  • Is the material that the printer uses heavy or light? – it will effect our construction.
  • Does it count if the jump is made mainly downwards?
  • Can we tape it into the roller-coaster? (YES!!)
  • Can we build one in paper before going to the computer?
  • In which direction is it best to print?
  • And more….

Comment from a teacher…. “I just love it when they actually raise their own questions – and are able to/have the opportunity to solve them too”

4. Have the groups design their own catcher, either by using the Tinkercad program directly or by making a sketch first and then use the program. Help them by keeping track of the size of the openings – to make sure the marble doesn´t get stuck in the catcher when it is printed.



  • Open up Tinkercad on your computer, use your personal account. Press “create new design” and rename if you would like your own name (the system will name your project automatically if you do nothing).
  • Press “Tinker this” and a blue workspace will appear.
  • Take a closer look at all the different shapes you can use as building objects on your right. Scroll down to find more. Some of them will be useful for your catcher and can be combined and changed in size exactly as you want them. Drag the shapes into the blue workspace. Need help? Use one of hundreds of Tutorials on the program, for example this one
  • Start building your catcher by combining different shapes. If you need a hole – bring any shape onto the workspace and press the hole function in the square in the right hand upper corner. Place the hole where you need it.
  • When your catcher is perfect, use your mouse to place a “square” around your complete model – and every detail will turn blue. Then press “Group” above. This means that all your details are now combined into one splendid object.
  • Now press the “Design” button in the upper lefthand corner and use “download for 3D printing”. Choose “.STL” and it will download to your computer. Save in suitable folder on your computer – rename if necessary.

5. Your catcher is now ready to be going to the program your printer is using for slicing and printing. Open the program and open your catcher in there. Save to your SD card or send directly to printer depending on how it works.

6. Print!

7. Attach your catcher to the marble roller-coaster with tape and try it out. You may need a few tries before it runs perfectly. How about having a race between the different teams now?
Keywords: physics, roller-coaster, kinetic energy, marble, track,

Do´s and don´ts:

  • If you are having a race – make sure all groups are acting according to the rules you set up together and that all marbles are actually jumping 20 cm´s in the air!
  • Do not worry if  some of the students haven´t used Tinkercad before – they will learn quickly when designing something like this.