How Roller Coasters Work

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					How Roller Coasters Function

      By Matthew Olszack and Ivan
               •   Amusement parks keep coming out
                   with faster and more complex roller
                   coasters every year. However, the
                   fundamental principles that function
                   in a roller coaster remain the same.
                   These principles include basic inertial,
                   gravitational and centripetal forces.
                   These forces are manipulated into the
                   roller coasters to create an
                   exhilarating roller coaster ride.
               •   In this presentation we will go through
                   the various principles that keep roller
                   coasters twisting and turning around
                   the tracks.
• At first glance, a roller coaster looks something like a passenger
  train. It consists of a series of connected cars that move on tracks.
  What differs a passenger train from a roller coaster is that a
  roller coaster is moved by forces such as inertia and gravity. A
  passenger train is moved by an engine or a power source of its
  own. Energy is also generated in a roller coaster by gravity.
  Energy exertion occurs when the roller coaster is pulled up the
  first hill (called the lift hill). The purpose of this initial energy is
  to build up potential energy. Potential energy occurs as the
  coaster gets higher in the air creating a greater distance for
  gravity to pull it down. When the roller coaster descends, this
  creates kinetic energy.
Up and Down the Tracks
•   According to Newton’s first law of
    motion, an object in motion tends to
    stay in motion; The roller coaster will
    maintain a forward velocity even
    when it is moving up the track as the
    kinetic energy exceeds the
    gravitational pull. When the coaster
    proceeds up one of the smaller hills,
    the energy changes from kinetic to
    potential energy. The roller coasters
    speed fluctuates throughout the ride
    because of the constant change from
    kinetic energy to potential energy.            The Pepsi Max Big One, at Black pool Pleasure
    This makes the roller coaster ride so          Beach:
    much fun.                                      This first hill drops the train 205 ft (62 m) at 74
                                                   mph (119 kph).
•   You might be wondering why in most
    roller coaster the hills decrease. This is
    because the energy that is built up in
    the lift hill is eventually lost to friction
    between the train and the track. When
    the train comes to the end of the track
    it has almost lost all of it’s energy.
 Wooden Roller Coasters
                                   •   Wooden roller coasters resemble the
                                       tracks of traditional railroad tracks.
                                       Rolled on to a flat metal strip are the
                                       wheels of the coaster. The strip is
                                       bolted down to the track which is
                                       made out of laminated wood. The
                                       wheels of the coaster are very similar
                                       to that of a train. A wide lip is
                                       contained on the inner part of the lip.
                                       This keeps the car from falling off the
                                       side of the track. Underneath the
                                       track runs another set of wheels, which
                                       prevents the cars from flying off the
                                   •   With these materials designers create
The Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz         hills, twists, and turns in various
Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz, CA:       directions. Not only that, they can
This classic wooden coaster was        even flip the train upside down.
built in 1924.                         However, this is rare in modern roller
                                       coasters. The motion is mainly up and
Tubular Steel Coasters
•   In the 1950’s, roller coasters designs
    changed completely with the
    introduction of tubular steel tracks.
    Tubular steel tracks consist of a pair of
    steel tubes. The wheels that sit right on
    the track are made of nylon or
    polyurethane. In addition to the
    wheels that lay on the track, the cars
    have wheels that run along the side
    and the bottom of the tubes. All of
    these wheels keep the car secured to
    the track.
•   The train cars in tubular steel coasters
    may rest on the track or attach to the      The Dragon Khan, a tubular steel roller
    track. In a suspended coaster, the             coaster at Universal Studios Port
    hanging trains swing form a pivoted                Aventura in Salou, Spain:
    joint, adding an additional side to side    The 4,165 feet (1,269 meters) of track in
    motion. In an inverted coaster, the           this coaster is twisted into several
    hanging train is attached to the track,         loops, twists and corkscrews.
    which gives the designer more control
    over how the cars move.
Tubular Roller Coasters
• A tubular track is laid out with large curved segments unlike a
  wooden track which is laid out in small pieces. In a tubular roller
  coaster, the ride is smooth while in a wooden the ride is rough.
  Each roller coaster has it's own distinctive character.

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