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Roller Coasters and Math


                        Building roller coasters requires a large amount of math. First of all roller coaster designers have to know the maximum velocity of a train without it going off the track. The slightest mix up could be a matter of life and death for the riders on the coaster.

                         The math starts right when an engineer begins to think about building. He or she has to know the exact height, length and if it is even possible mathematically to create. They need to know if the first drop can give the train enough speed to generate itself around the track, or most importantly what the track will be made of and how much of the material they will need.

                        If the engineer decides to make the track out of wood he or she will have to know that the roller coaster cannot be as high as a steel coaster and if they can make it as tall or taller they will have to know angles, weight of the train, and how fast a train can go.  If deciding to build a steel roller coaster the engineer must decide if they want to make a launch coaster or a classical “crank” coaster.                                                                                                                                                                                            

         For a launch coaster the designer needs to determine the amount of stress that can be put on the launching gear. Going hand and hand with that is the weight of the cars. For instance, if the cars are too heavy for the launching gear the train won’t get through the ride, or the gear could break completely which could cause injury and loss of money. For a crank gear the weight of the train is also crucial. If too heavy the chain will snap and the cars will go down the incline that they were going up.  The amount of stress the chain can withstand is important as well, but this goes without saying.

                        No matter the material weather wood or steel the designer has to consider the slope of the drop, the amount of inverts, the amount of turns, height, speed, length, and even the amount of breaks that the ride needs. The slope and height of the first drop are probably the most important features of the coaster. These are the most important features because they determine weather or not the train will get through the track at a constant speed and if they can make the loops or bank turns. If there are too many inverts or turns the train won’t make it back to the train house anyway even if the drop seems to be big enough to remain at a constant speed.

                         The length is also an issue in how high you have to make the drop and what angle to make it at. If the coaster is too long for the train to keep a constant speed than the engineer has to make the launch more powerful or the drop higher and steeper. If too short the designer has to incorporate breaks on the track to slow the train up so the cars don’t come crashing through the train house, which could injure or possibly even kill somebody. The breaks have to be placed very strategically so the train won’t stop in the middle of the ride.

                        An area that may be overlooked with roller coasters and math is operating. The person operating the ride needs to know the exact time to launch a train, because if there is more than one train running and the operator launches too soon two trains could possibly collide with one another.

                        Finally one of the most crucial parts of building a roller coaster is knowing the cost and how much money you have. If somebody thinks of an amazing coaster, but they don’t have the money there is no point of even trying to make the ride work. Not only do you need to know the cost of the ride an engineer also needs to put the amount of insurance into account. The more money you have, the better roller coaster you can create.

                        These are some of the ways roller coasters involve math, and what it takes to make an amazing thrill ride. Hopefully more and more people will extend their learning so more and more coasters can be built.