By , August 23, 2012
Colin Coon

Hey everybody,

I thought about ways to touch on the whole intern process and what could make this blog a little more informative for those wishing to pursue a career in this industry.  I figured I would make this entry of how I became interested in the amusement industry, what I want to do in the future, and what can be done to get your foot in the door if you are interested in doing this in the future.  Now this is just what I have done and what got me to where I am, but it’s not necessarily the correct answer for everything and I can’t promise that it will get you a job!  But I hope that this will shed some light on what you can do if this is what you want to do for a living, and how to better your chances of making it happen.  Hopefully you like reading, because this is a long one!

The first thing I did was made sure that this is what I wanted to do.  I didn’t always want to be an engineer, and I definitely didn’t always have an ambition of working with roller coasters.  I first became interested in roller coasters when I was about 10-years-old, and for about eight years it was my favorite hobby.  I was an enthusiast, and I loved traveling to parks to ride as many coasters as I could!  But at that point it was still just a hobby to me.  My main goal in life was to be a pilot, and I actually went very far down the path to become one.  I flew remote control airplanes for years, attended summer camp at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University twice, and even soloed in a glider at age 14!  But as I got older I found that I didn’t love it anymore, and my stomach didn’t like it either.  By the time I realized this I had already been accepted to the Florida Institute of Technology to complete my degree in Aviation Science.  I felt stuck and I was now interested in being an engineer instead; the downside being that FIT did not offer Mechanical Engineering at the time.

Right out of high school I got a job working at Universal Studios Florida and was on the opening team for Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.  Without going in to too much detail, it was a very interesting experience.  For about three months I spent my days commissioning the ride and got to spend a lot of time with the engineers, maintenance staff, and fellow team members.  During this time I learned a LOT about what makes a ride work, what makes a ride not work, and how to break in a new ride.  Once this was all said and done I had made my decision; I wanted to design roller coasters.  Not just roller coasters in general, but the ride vehicles themselves and the components that make them work (lift systems, braking systems, etc.)

I had to make a sacrifice and gave up my acceptance to FIT in order to pursue my dream.  I decided that I wanted to go to the University of Central Florida for Mechanical Engineering, and went through a transfer program through Valencia College in Orlando to do so.  During this time I worked at Universal for a total of three years and got to experience many different attractions from the operations standpoint.  There really is no better way short of doing maintenance on rides themselves to get a better understanding of how a ride works.  I really paid attention to as much as I could, asked to see how different rides worked, and made an effort to educate myself on the industry during my time at Universal.

Fast forward to this summer and I found myself at the FREDxGCII weekend.  FREDx is a two-day “event” that Great Coasters puts on to interview potential interns, share industry knowledge, provide networking between fellow students interested in the amusement industry, and access to industry professionals through guest speaking.  It was VERY informative, and getting to make friends interested in the same thing that I am was great (remember, you never know who you may end up working with!)  I guess I did something right, because now I’m an intern, but even if I never got this position I would still say that coming up to Sunbury for FREDxGCII was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my career.

My best advice for anyone looking to get his or her foot in the door is to get involved in any way possible.  There are many opportunities in the amusement industry to do so, and working at a park isn’t a requirement.  Make a point to go to IAAPA Expo in Orlando and just walk around!  Many people are interested in talking to the future of the industry, and IAAPA even offers an ambassador program that allows you to basically work the show floor for the week and meet just about ever vendor in attendance.

Working in a park is another way to gain experience.  There is no better way to learn than to have hands on experience, and being able to work with a ride or a roller coaster will really shed light on to how they work.  It’s also the easiest way to get up close and personal with a ride and to really study what all goes in to designing it.  I learned more than I ever thought I would be working in a park.

I could probably write several blogs on all of this, but I think I’ll stop here for now.  Hopefully this helps anyone thinking of doing this seriously, and while it worked for me some things might not work for you.

Thanks for reading!

2 Responses to “”

  1. RCT4 says:

    “I learned a LOT about what makes a ride work” Like what? We need details man!

  2. Colin Coon says:

    It’s not entirely easy to give details, especially when the details can be a foreign language to some people! But to sum it up I learned a lot about ride systems both from a user standpoint and an engineering standpoint. Seeing how the ride vehicle interacts with the lift, how some harness systems work over others, what control systems can do for different rides, etc. are the main things I kept an eye on.

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