How cool would it be to build a roller coaster in your own backyard?
Though it’s not common practice, recently there have been several people who were driven to meet the challenge of designing their own backyard coaster. Not such a crazy idea—the project teaches physics emphasizing gravity, friction and speed while making fun for the entire family.
The Oklahoma Land Run
Jeremy Reid, of Newcastle, Oklahoma, built a 444-foot wooden roller coaster track in his parent’s backyard – set on 10,000 acres of land. The Oklahoma Land Run backyard roller coaster delights riders with its rickety-rack, click-clack sound as it reaches the top of a 20- foot drop, the first of four, and travels up to 20 mph. Reid became interested in building a roller coaster after he took engineering, and materials and strength classes in college. In Reid’s videos, he recalls the lack of information available on building roller coasters, and the extensive research it required to help him build the safe, solid 4.75 ton structure.
A true STEMist, 19-year-old engineering student David Chesney built a coaster that he calls The Minotaur. Chesney used 91 feet of steel-plated wooden track in his parent’s backyard in Toronto, Canada, to build his roller coaster that features two 12-foot drops and goes up to 12 miles per hour. The coaster construction took nearly 4 years. Chesney used scraps and other material from local hardware stores that totaled about $3,000.
The $50 Roller Coaster
Do you have a tight budget? Teens, Austin Twede and Porter Harding, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, enlisted the help of two neighborhood friends to build a 50-foot wooden coaster in 1 1/2 days that cost under $50! The thrill-seeking teens were bored and set out to make the coaster when challenged by Harding’s mother. To find the track width, the coaster seat – made of wood, wheels and a stadium seat cushion – was constructed first. The coaster was mounted on the roof of a backyard play set, providing a 10-foot drop for riders. Friends and neighbors spent many hours on the smooth-riding coaster decorated with Christmas lights for night-time runs.
The Caution Zone
Orinda, California, is home to The Caution Zone roller coaster and Coaster Dad Will Pemble, another backyard builder. Pemble couldn’t see any reason to say no to his son Lyle when he asked if they could build a roller coaster in the backyard. The 180-foot coaster project cost about $3,500, and it took less than one year to complete. In his vlog, Pemble reminds backyard coaster-builder-wannabees about momentum—the heavier the cart, the faster the ride, and the more energy the cart will carry into the inclines, turns, and flats of the track.
Backyard roller coasters run the gamut when it comes to budget and size. If roller coaster building on a large scale doesn’t fit into your schedule or backyard, be sure to check out our “What Goes Up” roller coaster-themed Groovy Lab in a Box where your STEMists will work on design challenges and become savvy roller coaster engineers.