Roller Coaster Engineering

Saturday, April 29, 2006 8:43 PM
Ok I need a little bit of help here. I am currently a freshman at MSU and I'm planning on majoring in something in physics or engineering. If I could somehow get involved with roller coasters that would be like a dream for me.

My question is does anyone have any knowledge on what specific field of engineering would be best to work with rollercoasters, and also how hard is it to actually get a job in the amusement ride industry.

Any information is appreciated and thanks in advance.


P.S. sorry if this has been discussed before I couldn't get the search tool to work.

Saturday, April 29, 2006 8:48 PM
Sorry about the search not working. This Google search will help you find answers...

engineering school

Saturday, April 29, 2006 9:25 PM
Thanks Jeff...that was helpful for fields of study but i still wasn't really able to find anything on the difficulty of getting into the industy. Anyone have info on it it extremely difficult or is it a reasonalbe goal for a future career.
Saturday, April 29, 2006 9:37 PM
You might want to check out our podcast with the Gravity Group (near the end, but also check their comments on "other work" they do)...

Sunday, April 30, 2006 2:16 AM
Hey gishman1, I also want to become a roller coaster engineer (but for Arow Dynamics). I am very interested in engineering so, I am thrying to pull a 3.5+ GPA for the rest off high school to get it to a good engineering college.
Sunday, April 30, 2006 2:55 AM
Even though I'm a CS major, I still say come to Georgia Tech!
Sunday, April 30, 2006 5:19 AM
Arrow is no more...
Sunday, April 30, 2006 12:21 PM
That is the dream isnt it. I too have/had the same aspirations as you, but you have to realize that there are a few thousand other engineering students graduating a year with the same goal. Nearly every student in my Mech E classes expresses interest in the amusement industry. It is a good dream, not one that I wish to defeat by any means, but you must remain realistic while being optimistic. (Although, I go to an Ivy League school and even I dont think I have much of a shot) What I have been told time a time again is; get a degree, get some experience in engineering, and send resumes. It is really like a craps shoot.
Sunday, April 30, 2006 12:21 PM
Your major would be determined by what aspect of roller coaster engineering you are interested in. If you want to work on the ride operations system, Computer or Electrical Engineering would be best. (I would imagine Computer would be best for designing the control module itself, and then Electrical would be best for actually implementing it) If you're into the ride vehicles and braking systems, Mechanical Engineering would provide the knowledge you would need. If you want to design the layout and support structure of the ride, you would go into Civil and Environmental Engineering and focus on Structural.

As to how difficult it is to get into the industry, I don't think there are any hard numbers out there, but one would think it is fairly difficult. This web site is a great example, really. For the past six years, the same 10 to 15 names keep popping up, with very, very few "newbies" coming into play.

Sunday, April 30, 2006 3:36 PM
Actually as a side note, if you want to get into the controls aspect in any way, your best bet is to stick to just electrical engineering with a course or two in some sort of programming language. Computer engineering deals with a design level that you really won't be getting into if you want to work up close and personally with coasters or most other amusement rides.

Getting into the industry is not the easiest for sure, but there are availabilities. The biggest problem I have seen out of people is flexibility. If you want to get in, two facts you need to have already accepted are you will most likely need to move and you will not make the salary that you could in most other fields. I have seen job openings available that could lead to the "dream job" for people and then see them turn it down due to not wanting to live anywhere but the place they grew up or also shock that they can't come in at the salary they want and start doing the work they want.

In some sense you need to pay your dues. You are not going to be able to call the shots for a while, but this is often what it takes to get your foot in the door. Once you have and you have proven yourself, then who knows. I can tell you that both Jeff from Great Coasters and I (Consign LLC) work remotely now. However, that took a lot of work and years of time on both of our parts to be able to do that.

The best I can tell you, if you want it, it IS possible. But you are going to have to work hard to get in, and then accept some lower positions and pay for a while. Love the engineering too...don't take the major for the job. Take the major for the love of the work you are doing and then find a way to apply that to the industry you love. Its a long road, but there have been mornings I have found myself walking into a park toward a brand new roller coaster, and had to keep myself from jumping up and down in absolute joy that THIS IS MY JOB!!!!!!!! I get to go to a park and work on a roller coaster and they PAY ME FOR THIS!!!!!

Good luck! *** Edited 4/30/2006 7:38:01 PM UTC by Wolfhound***

Sunday, April 30, 2006 6:59 PM
Try using Disney Imagineers Ultimate Ride Deluxe coaster sim. for fun!!!
Sunday, April 30, 2006 8:13 PM
On top of what Brian (Wolfhound) already said about being willing to accept some hard choices, getting a job in the amusement industry also involves a little networking and a lot of luck. Everyone involved in the amusement park business knows at least ten other people anxious to also get involved. I'll build off of what Brain talked about (being patient with 'lower' jobs) and encourage you to spend some effort getting your work and name involved with those who could make a difference.

A good example would be finding out which firms also do work with parks BESIDES B&M, Intamin, GCI and TGG. My firm does structural work for some of the Paramount Parks. I'll never lay my hands on actually designing the layout for a ride where I currently work, but I consider myself very blessed to have already gotten to work on several ride foundations, as well as many buildings for the parks. So although I'm not designing the rides themselves, my foot is in the door, and I think that's what's important.

You'll never get into this industry through the front door. You have to find a way in through the back! I hope this helps!

Sunday, April 30, 2006 9:46 PM
Hello gishman1, I'm graduating this year and will be attending Tennessee Tech University. I was told that I need to major in Mechanical Engineering for the cars and trains part of it and Civil Engineering for the track layout and design part of it. This has also been a life long dream for me and I don't personally know anyone how has the same dream till I read this topic... so now I don't feel like a weirdo lol j/k. You might want to go on Disney's Imagineering page to find out some facts too. I will definitly be applying for their internships and contests they have. I emailed them about the internships and they said the would be happy if I were to intern with them. So they sent me requirements and the time to apply for them and what will be going on. I'm proud to say that I'm getting started on reaching my life long goal. I hope that you are able to get what you want and this helped you some.
Sunday, April 30, 2006 10:27 PM
You need to start interning over your summers. And after a summer of proving yourself, try to apprentice yourself on a woodwalking crew. A woodwalker is one of those guys who every morning walks a wooden coaster checking out the trackage and support structure. You've got to start building your credentials.

Tangential activities also count. Join the team at your school that builds the solar powered car and enters the cross country race every year, the team that builds the robot and enters the robotics competition, the team that builds the bridges and enters the national bridge buiulding competitions, etc., etc. No, those are not roller coasters,but they demonstrate your ability to work in a group and design and build something that actually works.

Get three or four articles published in a professional journal.

Every little bit helps.


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