Roller coasters give students lesson in engineering

News Release Date: 

Written by Kurt Moore The Marion Star
March 12, 2012 

MARION - The Ohio State University at Marion transformed an engineering classroom into a theme park, celebrating what educators say has been a successful first year of the new program.

Students in Engineering 183 took part in a project in which they used pipe, marbles and other material to make miniature roller coasters. Teams of students faced off in a competition for the best design as they learned, physics, math and teamwork.

This is the first year for Engineering 183 on the Marion campus. Starting with fall semester, students will be able to take two years of engineering classes before transferring to the main campus in Columbus.

Students and their instructor said this is a cost savings that comes with other benefits.

Students Devin Patel, Ron Varghese, Torri Miller and Stephanie Fibelkorn came out on top for their design of a Dragon Ball Z-themed roller coaster complete with a corkscrew, light effects and dried ice.

They estimated it took about three weeks to get it to work right, including some tweaking so that the marble wouldn't speed too fast and hit instructor Gary Maul as he walked past.

"We had to go all out," Patel said. "We were ready for this project at the beginning of the year."

Maul, a retired engineering professor hired by Ohio State Marion to teach its engineering classes, said he started having students do this project back in the late 1980s at the main campus.

"We were trying to maintain engineering students," he said.

"They weren't getting a chance to do engineering."

The project got them excited as they saw an example of how to put what they were studying into use.

While on a smaller scale, this is part of a dream for Fibelkorn who would like to work as an engineer at a theme part like Walt Disney World someday.

"We knew this is what she wanted to do as a career and we couldn't let her down," said Miller.

Maul said students had to design the coaster using computer-aided design software. Getting it right took skill in math and physics.

He and other educators said they are pleased with how the program's first year has gone.

"We have been excited to get engineering on this campus," he said. "Marion has a real history for manufacturing. To have engineering on this campus is a real plus."

Being able to take the courses at Ohio State Marion saved about $3,000 in tuition compared to the main campus. Students said they also get more of a chance to talk to their instructor than they would in Columbus.

Reporter Kurt Moore: 740-375-5151 or