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Ultimate Rollercoaster > Discussion Forums > Roller Coasters, Parks & Attractions > Need to interview "rollercoaster experts"

Need to interview "rollercoaster experts"

Posted: 3/10/09 at 10:09:53 PM
Views: 7472


As a part of a school assignment, my 10 year old son needs to conduct a Q & A with an expert in a field of his choosing. The field he has chosen is "rollercoasters". Since we don't know anybody in the field of rollercoasters, I thought maybe an online forum for rollercoaster enthusiasts would be a good way to go.

If anybody would care to take a few minutes of their time to answer the following questions to the best of their abilities, your help would be greatly appreciated. Some of the questions may be geared more towards a designer/engineer, so like I said, to the best of your abilities if you aren't a designer/engineer.

1. How do you program a rollercoaster's movements?

2. What force does a rollercoaster rely on if it is not being moved by chains or something else that moves it?

3. Has there ever been a death because somebody did not keep their hands and feet inside of the cart?

4. What types of computers are used for programming a rollercoaster?

5. Approximately how much did the most expensive rollercoaster that has ever been built cost?

6. Is the rule of how tall a person must be to ride on a rollercoaster important?

7. Can rollercoasters be ruined by temperature? (I think he is asking if weather temperature has any adverse effects on rollercoasters)

8. Who invented the rollercoaster?

9. Has there ever been a rollercoaster that was so dangerous that it had to be torn down?

10. Are some of the faster rollercoasters safer than some slower rollercoasters?

11. What is your field of expertise pertaining to rollercoasters?

Thank you!

-James and Damon

Re: Need to interview "rollercoaster experts" by MavCoaster14 MavCoaster14 Profile at 3/11/09 12:59:13 PM

I may not design roller coasters, but I do consider myself a "roller coaster expert" and I study them a lot, and I know a lot about them.

#1) Roller Coasters use gravity to move, but to make sure that the roller coaster will make it around its circuit safely, computers are used to calculate the exact shape of the track or other components sometimes down to the nearest millimeter. Things like chain speed, brake speed, and when trains move is all done with computers now, and the data is programmed into a system that is used to control various things on roller coasters. The same applies with launches. A computer will tell the roller coaster how fast to launch the train, and it will send it out. Now, as roller coasters are becoming more complex, some roller coasters monitor the wind speed and weight of the train along with other factors, and will adjust the launch speed according to the data.

#2) A roller coaster relies on different forces to move it through the track. The two main ones are kinetic energy (speed) and potential energy (height). The conversion of these two forces pushes the ride along its tracks, so, in a typical roller coaster, the potential energy would be greatest at the top of the first hill, and the kinetic energy would be greatest at the bottom of the first drop.

#3) This question is a little hard to answer. First of all, if you are safe in the car and strapped in, putting your hands up would rarely ever hurt you. Now, for your feet, it wouldn't be a smart thing to do to stick your legs out, but if your foot was outside of the car, you should be safe if you're strapped in tight. On the other hand, it's when people stand or sit incorrectly that becomes highly dangerous. This has killed people, but if your foot or hand goes out of the car, you should be fine. Also, the ride supports are far enough away that unless you were standing, you could never hit them. Rides are designed with safety in mind.

#4) Basically any computer could be used, as long as it was powerful and had the software. So, a typical home computer wouldn't be used to design a ride.

#5) Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom cost around $100,000,000, but most of that money was spent on scenery. For a non-themed roller coaster, Steel Dragon 2000 in Japan cost $50,000,000 USD.

#6) Yes, very important. For one, it makes sure that the riders can safely fit in the restraints. Second, it also has meaning for the proportional size of people. Many times children that are short are very small as well, so the ride may not be able to hold them.

#7) The temperature mainly effects the steel on roller coasters. The steel can expand and contract causing differences in how well the ride runs compared to warm weather. Also, it may affect brakes or other components, causing the ride to be dangerous. But, the main reason why roller coasters don't run in cold weather is because who wants to ride a roller coaster in cold weather!? That's really cold! It's just not profitable for parks to run rides when no one's going to ride them anyway.

#8) The roller coaster dates back to the 1700's to the Russian Ice Slides. These were large slides that people rode in toboggans down, about 70 feet tall. It's not known who exactly came up with this idea. In 1827, Josiah White opened "Gravity Road", which sent people down a mountain in large cars. There were previous roller coasters, but the creators of these rides, to the best of my knowledge, remain unknown. LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented the idea of a roller coaster, which consisted of hills, loops, and a wooden track, but he didn't invent it. It really depends on what you would consider "inventing".

#9) Many early roller coasters were too dangerous to operate safely, but this is very rare in the present. Now, we have computers and dynamic testing and other tools to make sure a roller coaster is safe, before it opens. I believe that there was a portable roller coaster at a Six Flags park that had to be removed because high G-forces were causing people to black out throughout the ride. If there are minor areas of a roller coaster that are unsafe, most of the time the ride can be fixed. For example Maverick, located at Cedar Point, had to get a section of its track replaced, but it still opened up and now it's a great ride!

#10) You have to be careful not to make the assumption that faster roller coasters are more dangerous than slower ones; this isn't true. Maybe some faster, bigger coasters are more dangerous, but a lot of small roller coasters are just as dangerous as bigger ones!

#11) I study roller coaster physics and am learning how to design them as well.

Re: Need to interview "rollercoaster experts" by jnewson at 3/11/09 7:57:25 PM

MavCoaster14 that is EXACTLY what we were looking for. You seriously made my day!

Thank you!

Re: Need to interview "rollercoaster experts" by Katie Katie Profile at 3/11/09 9:19:37 PM

I have to disagree with #7.

Steel is affected by cold or warm temps but so are wooden ones!

I have ridden a coaster in 95 degree heat with humidity and the thing ran sluggish. Not that it was bad, just slower then normal.

Once it cooled off about 10-15 degrees, it ran at peak performance.

So, the answer should be both are affected by different temperatures.

Re: Need to interview "rollercoaster experts" by ROBSCOAST at 3/12/09 12:30:56 AM

Actually Katie is correct, Both are affected.

However Wood being a more porous, and pliable material is affected more.
Wood will expand and contract much farther than steel,with temperature changes.

Re: Need to interview "rollercoaster experts" by parkbookman parkbookman Profile at 3/12/09 1:37:00 PM

If memory serves me correct, one hot dry summer in the mid-1990s, Cedar Point had to put sprinklers on Mean Streak because the wood was getting too dry. Does anyone else remember this?

I think its one of the more unusual examples of weather effecting a roller coaster.

Re: Need to interview "rollercoaster experts" by Greg_VG at 3/16/09 12:24:07 AM

I rode the Twister II at Elitchs this summer during a night ERT with NAPHA ("National Amusement Park Historical Assocation"), and we were sprayed with water from the sprinkling system built onto this wood coaster due to the altitude in which Denver is located.