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For Ohio State’s ThemePark group, it’s about enjoying the ride

Pat Slattery, a 3rd-year in civil engineering, Kyle Streetz, a 2nd-year in mechanical engineering, Matt Schmitz, a 1st-year in engineering, Eamon Kelly, a 4th-year in mechanical engineering, Brad Okeson, a 5th-year in mechanical engineering, and Elliot Howell, a 4th-year in aeronautical engineering, members of the ThemePark Engineering Group pose with several of their projects in their work space in the basement of Scott Lab on Monday.

Please keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times and enjoy the ride.

Ohio State’s ThemePark Engineering Group likes to have fun while preparing its members to work in the amusement park industry.

The group started in February 2007, with the goal of learning and gaining professional experience within the industry, said Brad Okeson, a fifth-year in mechanical engineering and founder of the group.

Various organizations within OSU, including the Engineers’ Council and Undergraduate Student Government, sponsor the group, Okeson said.

There are no dues to join the group and most of the travel cost is covered. Exact costs were unknown.

The ThemePark Engineering Group has two main functions: to design and model creation on campus, travel to numerous amusement parks and conventions nationwide.

The ThemePark Engineering Group is comprised of roughly 12 core members with additional membership fluctuating, Okeson said.

“We have four meetings a week. It’s a big time commitment, but so far it’s been paying off,” said Eamon Kelly, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering and chairman of engineering and design. “So far almost everyone who has been a strong core member (of the group) has a job within the industry if they’ve wanted to.”

The design side of the group is comprised of a creative design committee and an engineering design committee, Kelly said.

“Creative design will do what you’d expect Disney to do, sort of the more interactive theme and artistic concepts,” Kelly said. “The engineering side does more pure machine type stuff like roller coasters and amusement rides.”

Using CoasterDynamix kits, the ThemePark Engineering Group builds model roller coasters, many of which run in a showcase at the Ohio Union.

But they’re not built to scale and wouldn’t work if built as a real roller coaster.

“We just kind of build them on the fly, there’s no calculation for the most part,” said Kyle Streetz, vice chairman of engineering and design. “In order to build one to scale that would work there would be a lot more involved.”

But the group has discussed building them to scale in the future.

The group travels to various parks around the country to develop an educational aspect to the group.

“Whenever we do go to a park, it’s led by a park engineer or manager who shows us the behind the scenes of the engineering behind their roller coasters,” Okeson said.

The parks generally have a positive response to the group and are more than willing to talk to them about how they build their rides, Kelly said.

Usually the group travels to at least one theme park convention every year to gain perspective on how the industry works, while doing a little networking, Okeson said.

“This group has become something really unique on campus and gotten a chance to expand to other colleges around the country,” Okeson said. “To places like Toledo, Cincinnati, Purdue and even a guy from Alabama emailed me recently.”

The ThemePark Engineering Group is working with ASTM International (formerly the American Society of Testing and Materials), the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions and other groups nationwide in order to try and develop an inter-collegiate design competition.

Student interest has risen to a different level within the industry with the spreading of these kinds of groups, Kelly said.

“It doesn’t hit you within the group that we’re ahead of the competition, but we went to a thing called Career Slam at one of the conventions with people our age and some were just completely clueless,” Okeson said. “Then there was us, an established organization with Ohio State and they look at us completely different because it’s true, we really are ahead of the game.”

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