Bethany Mruzik admits that engineering principles were the last thing on her mind every time she climbed aboard a roller coaster at Six Flags St. Louis.
But with the popular park only 15 minutes from her home, Mruzik – now a senior civil engineering major at Purdue – soon realized her interest in a theme park industry career.
That made the College of Engineering’s roller coaster dynamics class the next logical step for her.
“It’s interesting because there are things you see in the class that you’re not quite thinking of when you’re on a roller coaster at 70 mph,” she said. “There’s laws and rules of reality and engineering and it’s interesting breaking that down to determine what can be done and what can’t be done.”
The class gives students a chance to not only design an animated roller coaster, but then experience the project firsthand using virtual reality to maneuver through the twists and turns, loops and rolls.
There’s a wide variety in the course this year, with students creating roller coasters that will take riders any where from the landscape of the “Game of Thrones” to outer space.
After creating their animated roller coaster, The Great Train Race, Mruzik and her partner are preparing to ride it this week.
Jeffrey Rhoads, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, said this is the sixth offering of the class, which began in fall 2009 in a partnership with Chuck Krousgrill, a Purdue mechanical engineering professor.
Rhoads and Krousgrill thought of creating the course while teaching another class called dynamics, which involves applying the principles of physics to mechanical systems.
“Chuck and I are not huge roller coaster fans per se,” Rhoads said. “But we found this was a really great venue to teach advanced material in a way that students appreciated, because it explored complex engineering concepts without boring them.”
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Filed Under: Student programs, Rapid prototyping, Virtual reality