Mechanical engineering to design coasters?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003 10:26 AM
I've been told by several people that I should major in Mechanical Engineering in college to design roller coasters, and all of the members of the Gravity Group have degrees in Mechanical Engineering. However, a friend of mine went to college to design roller coasters and 2 years after majoring in Mechanical Engineering, she was told that she would have to major in Structural Engineering to design coasters. So, what's the right answer? Mechanical? Structural? Something else...?
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 10:32 AM
I believe that roller coaster firms use several different types of engineers in coaster production; structural, mechanical, electrical, etc. I am quite sure mechanical engineering can get you into roller coaster design. Your friend should be okay in that respect.

The thing to remember though, is that roller coaster companies hire only people with experience so if your friend really wants to become a roller coaster designer, he will probably spend several years working in some other industry first. Getting a degree in engineering for the sole fact of designing roller coasters may not be the wisest thing ever. It’s very hard to get that type of job, as there are not many positions available.

Anyway, that’s my input.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:02 AM
Also in the mechanical engineering curriculum they do touch on some structural classes (Statics, Mechanics of Solids, Mechanisms etc). At my job we do some structural analysis and I am a Mech/Aero Eng.

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Lyrically, I'm supposed to represent
I'm not only a client, I'm the playa president!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:36 AM
You should definitely learn as much as possible. The more you have in your skill set, the more attractive you look to a potiential employer. Oh, and once you get your degree, don't stop learning new things. The day you stop learning should be the day you die.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 11:47 AM
I am currently studying Architectural Engineering, with an emphasis on Structural Engineering starting next year. Roller Coaster design is my dream position, but I am not in this field for that sole purpose. I am, however, going to try and follow the advice of an Arrow engineer that was given in an engineering magazine I saw a couple years back. It was an article about odd jobs, with roller coaster highlighted. I forget who it was, but he was the head structural engineer at Arrow and was working on X at the time. He said that as a structural engineer, he basically had the final say on the layout and several other aspects of the ride. He went on to say that if you want to design rides, you should try to intern or get a summer job at your local park's engineering department. That way you'll get your name out in the industry and you may have a shot at moving to a company in the future.

My take on the aspect of designing roller coasters is that everything is involved. MEs will deal more with the train and station No matter what field you are in, you'll have to get a big break and know the right people to get into the industry, I think.

Kev

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"And we are now passing under Millennium Force, which, with the arrival of Top Thrill Dragster, is now...just blue."

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:46 PM
You probably have an equal shot with either structural or mechanical... Structural for designing supports, foundations, etc. or mechanical for analyzing G-forces, track layout, etc. If you go mechanical, aerospace would be what to emphasize in.

That being said, I doubt any coaster designer would hire anyone without a PE (professional engineer) license. To be elligible to take the PE test, you have to have at least 4 years of work experience... so at a minimum, you'll be doing something else for 4 years.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 1:43 PM
Choosing the discipline isn't the hard part - getting the degree is. I studied ME for 2 1/2 years, broke the left side of my brain, then ended up getting an English degree. Now, instead of designing roller coasters, I can look at them and say something profound, like, "holy crap!"

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Colin D.
Ask about my references!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 1:47 PM
Mechanical Engineers build weapons.

Civil Engineers build targets

Later,
EV
- proud Mechanical/Automotive Engineer
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"Everybody has desperate days of quiet questioning.
Everybody has times when they feel like they don't fit in."
- Color Theory, So Many Ways, 2001

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 2:12 PM
Ha ha EV.
I just graduated from Iowa State with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. I got into it because I wanted to design roller coasters, but strugled with the structural/mechanics classes and kind of gave up on that dream. Now I'm looking for a job in HVAC (Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning). Anyone around here hiring?
For those thinking about going into engineering--make sure you enjoy complex math and physics in high school. It gets much harder to stick with later on often because it's so tedious and not interesting rather than terribly dificult--that's how it was for me anyway.
Good luck :-)
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-Matt in Iowa
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 2:18 PM
I originally wanted to be a roller coaster designer...my whole life actually. I sat back when I was 17 and realized the complex math and physics involved, really thought about it, and realized I didn't want that anguish for 6 years (going for a masters in whatever field) so I decided to switch to hospitality management for theme park and attractions management at UCF.

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I am one.
I am Turbo.
Top Thrill in the front row... anything else is lame

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 2:31 PM
Kip, you may be on to something. My first thought was that a mechanical engineer would design the layout and make sure that g-forces would be safe. A structural engineer would then take over and figure out how to hold up the track Then electrical engineers would take over and figure out how to make the thing work on a daily basis. That's just my thought, I'm not an engineering student or anything though.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 2:51 PM
I am still in highschool, I would love to design rollercoasters, but know that it is very difficult, so I'm gonna see how I do this year, and see what's going on, I am very good at math, I'm only a sophomore so I'm not in physics yet, but in 8th grade we touched on it a little bit and I did pretty well, and Math and Science are my two favorite subjects. I hope things go well with all u people studying Mechanical/Structural/Architectual engineering.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 2:57 PM
I visited California University of Pennsylvania a year ago and i talked to the head of the engineering department. When i told him i wanted to design roller coasters, be explained to me about a dual degree program. This is not a program designed especially for people who want to design roller coasters. He told me my best bet would be to go to school for 5 years and get a degree in mechanical engineering and physics. After he told me about that, i was totally eager to apply. Good thing i got accepted.

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ROLLER COASTERS: MY ANTI DRUG

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 4:27 PM
Matt and Turbo - couldn't agree more. I took differential equations twice; first time F, second time C. I did great with the physics part of engineering. It was the theoretical math that drove me to obtain a liberal arts degree.

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Colin D.
Ask about my references!

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 4:32 PM
I also want to design roller coasters and I am in my freshman year majoring in mechanical engineering. I got a lot of info from this website: www.john-wardley.demon.co.uk/ I would suggest that you check it out because he describes how coaster designing is a combination of different fields of engineering. He says that if you want to design the curves of the track (which is what I want to do and I would guess is what you want to do), then you should major in ME.
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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 5:12 PM
I'm shooting for a ME degree after I graduate highschool, not soley for designing coasters but it is a dream that I keep in the back of my mind. It'd be pretty fun to just come back here and laugh at some of the "expert opinions" that are so often posted here after you've learned all about how the things are built, work, designed, ect.

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CP 2K3: 19
"What are you, a dentist? Or a hippie? Or some kind of hippie dentist?" -strong bad

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Tuesday, September 23, 2003 5:17 PM
Don't laugh too hard. ME's straight out of college are very wet behind the ears. College teaches you theory. Jobs teach you application.

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--Maddie--
What do I Listen-To?
Hot stuff.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003 7:12 AM
Actually, the hard part is getting a job with a rollercoaster company after you get your degree. Designing a coaster requires mechanical, civil, electrical, and controls engineers. Most of the engineers with coaster companies seem to be mechanical or civil. The electrical and controls tend to be farmed out to specialits.
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Wednesday, September 24, 2003 7:36 AM
Olsor,

I think we ALL hated "diffy-Q" (it was my lowest collegiate grade ever) in engineering school. What's funny is that in my 15 years of work experience, I have yet to need to use any of it (although I get pretty close dealing with the Noise guys and PSD's). If I had to say what class I use the most, right now it would be Probabilities & Statistics.

My recommendation to anyone out there is to get yourself a good ME undergraduate degree as a solid foundation, and then if you are still striving after the coaster part, specialize in the structural or civil disciplines for your minor or post-graduate work. I started out thinking I would go into aerospace, but wound up co-op-ing, staying with, and loving my place here in the automotive industry.

Thus, to clarify my earlier joke....

Mechanical Engineer-designed weapon = Corvette Z06

Civil Engineer-design target = Route 66

Later,
EV
-----
"Everybody has desperate days of quiet questioning.
Everybody has times when they feel like they don't fit in."
- Color Theory, So Many Ways, 2001

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Wednesday, September 24, 2003 6:31 PM
Ah, crazy college engineering students. I understand it well. All along most recomendations for being a designer have been towards the mechanical discipline. I am currently a sophmore mechanical engineering student. Designing coasters is a dream job, but experience in the field must come first. I will stop typing because my brain probably hurts from studying too much.
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