A group of students from across St. Lawrence County is learning the ups and downs of roller coasters this week. It's part of a state funded camp at Clarkson University that exposes students to careers in science and technology. Barry Wygel spent the day with them.
POTSDAM, N.Y. -- It's the culmination of a year of work.
"We have students come to campus and we teach them all about the mathematics and physics that go into building a roller coaster," said Kathleen Fowler, one of the camp's organizers.
The week-long experience begins by teaching students the fundamentals of roller coaster design.
"We talked a little bit about potential energy and kinetic energy and their goal there was to try and figure out whether or not their roller coaster car would actually make it to the end of the track," said Corey Ostrove, a senior at Clarkson and an instructor at the camp.
As part of the camp, the students will spend the day using everyday objects to test out some of the things they have learned as well as having just a little bit of fun.
"And then the kids' favorite part is they actually get to come up and fire it," said Ostrove.
The potato gun shows students how potential energy, much like when a roller coaster is at the top of the hill, is transferred into kinetic energy.
"We're going to check the acceleration of it, to see if someone is going to black out," said Katelin Gardner, who is attending the camp.
This experiment allows students to create g-forces and see if they fall within safe limits for humans.
"Nobody will black out," said Gardner.
Over the next couple days, the students will take what they have been learning and create a roller coaster of their own.
"They start with a scaled blueprint that they create and they work to do all the analysis that the roller coaster will actually make it through the track safely and then they implement the roller coaster in a simulation tool," said Fowler.
And perhaps the most fun part of roller coaster camp is a trip to Clarkson's simulator, which gives students a virtual ride prior to them hitting the drawing boards themselves.
In addition to the simulator, students will have the chance to go to Great Escape in Lake George to ride actual roller coasters after designing their own.