2014 MIT East Campus Coaster

How to build a roller coaster in one week

The East Campus Roller Coaster returns. After a hiatus of a few years, the roller coaster was brought back and was bigger and better than ever. The tradition of building upon technical and larger projects continued with a design conceptualized by 3 Mech E. 16's at East Campus: Ben Katz, Jaguar Kristeller, and Wesley Lau.


First 3D concept drawing, to get the idea across to all the people at MIT that would need to approve the structure
Another quick pass at a variant of the looped design, missing most of the structure
To calculate the normal force, at any point you need the velocity, the radius of curvature of the track, and the angle of the track relative to horizontal

In early design iterations, the roller coaster had an internal loop...

Unfortunately, we had to scrap the loop. One of the steps to getting the coaster approved by MIT and Cambridge was going through MIT's Environment, Health and Safety department (EHS). Basically, EHS said No Upside-Down People. Period.

First approved structure — a design based on "Design for Assembly." 

Students would have a week to build the entire structure, and the labor skill of the students and incoming freshmen who would be doing much of the construction would range from extremely competent to which direction does the drill point?

You'll see that, with the friction estimate used, G-forces actually go just barely negative at the top of the second hill. 

The built design was geometrically resolved to moderate the g-force on riders, but still maintaining the ambitions of a multi-hilled profile.  

Citing some wood-loading vs bolt size chart, engineers asked us to make all our spandrel-supporting bolts 1" in diameter. Early East Campus wooden structures used 1/2" threaded rod as bolts. 
The diagonal braces on the tower also had to be significantly beefed-up.  In the past, these have consisted of sketchily screwed in chunks of 2x4.  Now, they had to have 2 1" bolts at the post, and 4(!) 3/4" bolts at the spandrel. 


One week of building

Lumber was delivered to the site on Monday
Progress since Tuesday
By Wednesday the structure is mostly completed
First person perspective riding the coaster

More process and engineering on Ben Katz's blog and full video