Adrenaline designers

UB students design roller coasters for club

The Theme Park Engineering Club visits Darien Lake to learn about amusement park design. The club provides students with the opportunity to learn about what goes into building the world’s roller coasters.

By Leah Higgins

Republished from The Spectrum

Published April 12, 2019

“Most people think I’m joking, they don’t believe that this club exists.”
Michael Limard, BS, Mechanical Engineering Student
President of UB’s Theme Park Engineering Club

Ian Buchman said he’s “kind of scared” of roller coasters. 

Still, he works on them just about every day.

He said he enjoys the planning aspect of them as secretary of UB’s Theme Park Engineering Club.

The Theme Park Engineering Club is a space for students to explore the logistics and creativity that goes into building theme parks and roller coasters. TPEC held its first meeting in the spring of 2017, and has ambitious prospects to grow quickly. Just this year, TPEC was invited to the inaugural Students in Themed Entertainment (S.I.T.E.) conference at Ohio State University, won UB’s battle-bots competition on its first year participating, and gained permanent club status.

“Most people think I’m joking, they don’t believe that this club exists,” said Michael Limardi, a junior mechanical engineering major and president of UB’s Theme Park Engineering Club. 

Michael Keller, a senior civil engineering major and vice president of the club, said he didn’t like riding roller coasters initially, but that didn’t stop him from co-founding TPEC. 

TPEC meets two-to-three times per month and aims to unite students from all majors who are interested in learning more about the background workings of theme parks. 

The 30-50 active club members can attest to the growing interest on campus for a creative space to explore and collaborate on projects surrounding amusement parks. 

The club uses its collective brain-power to figure out some of the logistics that go into building a theme park.

“If you’re talking about your standard intense roller coaster, it will go up to 4G. Once you get higher than that … well people will start to black out,” Limardi said. “It’s not just like, ‘Oh I’m going to throw a rollercoaster here’… take into consideration the logistics of ‘Can I really build this? How much is it going to cost?’” 

The club uses K’Nex design figures, NoLimits software and a simulation lab located on campus to build and design realistic roller coasters. The intricate projects must also consider and problem-solve real life complexities and possible complications.

Joshua Bukaty, a junior mechanical engineering major and treasurer of TPEC, has known that he wanted to work with roller coasters since he was six years old. The projects that TPEC works on provides Bukaty with the “kind of space for working on what we love to do.” 

The club has provided opportunities to connect with other theme-park-based clubs and networks across the country. In the first week of this spring semester, TPEC was invited to S.I.T.E., where they attended a conference that the director of engineering from SeaWorld, the director of engineering from Universal, and other major professionals in the field were also present. 

“It was cool to meet them, and hear about how every one of them started out as an employee at a theme park,” Keller said. 

Along with a national network base, TPEC has also made its mark on campus as the “major upset” winners of this year’s battle-bot competition on campus. It was their first year with a working robot in the competition and club members look forward to upholding their new reputation in the future. 

TPEC is looking forward to entering Cornell University’s Theme Park Design Competition in May 2019. The competition consists of a theoretical plot of land and being tasked with designing a theme park while accounting for its theme, strategy, cost and practicality.

The club has previously taken a behind-the-scenes tour of Six Flags Darien Lake where they saw blueprints for upcoming roller coasters and learned about what went into removing old roller coasters and building new ones. 

Members hope to plan more visits to larger amusement parks like Cedar Point.