A roller-coaster engineer describes how big angles lead to big thrills
The United States has more than 650 roller coasters. They’re designed with drops, twists, and turns that offer thrills for anyone brave enough to take a ride.
Larry Chickola is the chief corporate engineer for Six Flags, a company that owns several amusement parks around the country. His job is to design roller coasters that are fun and safe. Larry spoke to DynaMath about how he uses angles in his designs.
When a roller coaster “drops” down the track, it does so at an angle to the ground.
“Steeper angles feel more exciting because you come down quicker,” says Larry. “Some of the less-thrilling rides, you’d go down more gradually.” This means the angle to the ground is smaller.
Look at the two diagrams directly to the left: During a drop, the coaster’s track forms an angle with the ground below. Coaster A has a steep drop: 85°. That can make the ride faster (and scarier) than Coaster B. Its 55° angle provides a slower ride.
Now find the angles of some popular coasters’ drops with this skills sheet.