WRA_110_research - The New Breed of Steel Giants The...

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The New Breed of Steel Giants The verdict is in: today's roller coasters are not for the faint-hearted. Roller coasters now stretch over 400 feet into the sky, and they are only getting taller and faster- most people would also contest that they are getting scarier too. But why have we seen such exponential growth in the height and speed of roller coasters in recent years? The answer is probably more multi-faceted than most people think. Roller coasters have recently matured due to a vast array of factors such as the integration of existing technologies, the invention of the computer, economic welfare, and money-hungry park owners. These factors have complimented each other to bring us new and exciting roller coasters each year. The devil's advocate of the roller coaster maturation process has historically been Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio. According to Cedar Point's official website, Cedar Point has broken the roller coaster height record four times since 1979. (The History of Fun: Cedar Point Celebrates Its Past). In 1978, Cedar Point build it's first record-breaking roller coaster, Gemini, at 125 feet tall. According to long-time Cedar Point maintenance worker Frank Kath, there was one big problem during the construction process. “The second hill was built too high. The trains couldn't make it up. We had to shave about 5 feet off to make it work” (Kath). In 1978, computers were still in their infancy. The best way to design a coaster was by simple hand calculations. Coasters had to be erected without any vindictive indication of safety or efficiency. Not too many parks were willing to take the type of gamble associated with building a record-breaker. By the eighties, computers were starting to become more mainstream. This was undoubtedly related to the success of Cedar Point's next monster. Frank Kath was pleased with the construction of Cedar Point's second record-breaker, the Magnum XL-200, in 1989. “Arrow [Dynamics] did a great job with the Magnum. Building a 200-foot coaster was a revolution for the industry, and we pulled it off nicely” (Kath). At 205 feet tall, the Magnum XL-200 was the first to surpass the 200-foot milestone. Using computer design software, Arrow Dynamics, the
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company that designed and built the Magnum XL-200, was able to accomplish this while assuring us of the coaster's safety and reliability. It was at this time that Cedar Point started to unveil one steal masterpiece after another. In the 90's, they added Mantis and Raptor. Raptor came first in 1994, featuring an inverted coaster design. Mantis was added two years later, on which people rode standing up (The History of Fun). Both of them feature eloquently twisted designs. By simply looking at them, you can easily conclude that the only way they were built was with the aid of a computer. Their respective tracks are so perfectly aligned. They would not have been possible if engineers still designed rides using hand calculations. Trevor Hite, former general manager of D.H. Morgan
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