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!

By , August 17, 2012
Colin Coon

Hello again everyone!

We had a pretty fun week in Sunbury at GCII.  On Monday I spent most of the day with Dan going over a shipment of guide wheel assemblies called “weldments.”  This involves cleaning up the weldment, test fitting the guide wheel and upstop axles, then inspect each weld for proper penetration and completion.  Once they have been cleaned and inspected the guide wheel can be added to the weldment, then placed on the train.  In all, it takes about 15 minutes to clean the weldment, 10 minutes to install the guide wheel, and maybe another 10 minutes to install the completed weldment to the chassis.

It took about a half a day to install all of the weldments and make sure the proper hardware was installed.  We should be ready to flip the chassis within the next few days, as work will be completed on the lower chassis.  If you don’t know what flipping is, our chassis arrive upside down upon delivery.  This allows us to install everything on the bottom of the chassis first, since that is where almost all of the mechanical components of the train are located.  Later in the week we torqued down all of the bolts to their specified value, and double-checked again with another torque wrench just to make sure that everything was done properly.

I’ve also been tagging along with Dan to various places around town that supply parts and services for the trains.  While most of the incoming parts for the trains and structure are shipped to us there are still a bunch of local businesses that service our needs.  Anyway, I should be making runs to these places solo in the next few weeks to pick up parts and pieces for our trains.  Hopefully I don’t get lost!

Another thing that I have found completely amazing this week is the turnaround time for parts orders.  Sometimes it’s easy to go in the back, pick up 20 wheels, throw them on a pallet to be shipped, and be done with it.  Other times we have to take a few extra steps, which rely on our suppliers as well.  For example, this week we had an order for about 15 seat side panels for one of our rides.  All of our seat sides arrive as bare metal and need to be powder coated prior to sending them out to the park, and this obviously takes some time right?  Wrong.  We got the order Wednesday around lunch time, took the seat sides down to the powder coater that afternoon, picked them up Friday morning at around 9am, and loaded them on a truck this afternoon.  So in roughly 48 hours we got 15 seat sides prepared, painted, and shipped.  Pretty impressive, and it’s something most people tend to overlook.

Lastly our new intern, Kevin, will be arriving next week in Sunbury.  I’ll let him do his intro and stuff, but make sure to check out his blog as well!  We will be doing some different stuff from one another too, so that should be interesting.

Thanks for reading!

By , August 14, 2012
Colin Coon

Hello everyone!

My name is Colin and I am a Mechanical Engineering student from Orlando Florida.  During the last three years I have been working in attractions at Universal Orlando Resort but just recently became the new intern with GCII.  I participated in FREDxGCII a few weeks ago and strongly encourage anyone who is looking to get their foot in the door to attend this event.  It sure worked for me!

The first week has been very interesting here at GCII, and it has been pretty eye opening already.  Upon my arrival in Sunbury I met with Chris for lunch and we spent an evening at Knoebels.  It was nice to not be in the car after the 17-hour drive up from Orlando and to relax a bit (especially on the Paratrooper).  Chris introduced me to a few members of the maintenance team at Knoebels and they gave me a tour of the control room for their newest ride, Black Diamond.  It was a lot more high tech and complicated than I expected, and all of it was done in house which is equally as impressive as the ride.

During the first week I worked with Dan on doing inventory and consolidation of incoming parts for both the trains and ride structure.  A truck was due to arrive on Wednesday so I had the task of laying out the pallets of materials so that the weight distribution was even throughout the container.  We then staged everything so that when the truck arrived it could all go in quickly and in order.  When the truck did show up it only took about 30 minutes to load nearly 46,000 pounds worth of materials.  Not too bad for two guys and a forklift.

I also completed various parts orders for several different parks around the world where our rides have been installed.  Our parts arrive in Sunbury in mass quantity, so I was tasked with hand counting out the exact number of a specific part that a park had requested.  Sometimes it’s easy, like throwing a bunch of wheels on a pallet, and other times it’s a little time consuming, like sorting out 100 washers and putting them in a bag…then realizing they were the wrong ones.  However this is all part of it, and getting my hands on these parts make identifying them much easier in the future.

Over the weekend a friend of mine and I went down to Hersheypark for the day, and I used it as an excuse to take a closer look at our rides since there are two of them there (Wildcat and Lightning Racer).  It was a lot easier to see how each part interacted with the ride structure and Millennium flyers, and I surprised myself at how many parts I could identify just from the week of doing inventory.  Needless to say, I think I’ve learned a lot already this week and I haven’t even touched a train yet!

In the next few weeks I’ll be heading down with Dan to Dollywood and we will have a small project to do on Thunderhead for a few days.  I’m pretty excited not only to visit Dollywood, but also to get some field experience with the Millennium Flyers and the ride itself.

So far it’s been a pretty good week and I’m excited to see what the next five months have in store for me.

Stay tuned!

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