I’ve seen a lot of parents flatly refusing to indulge their kids’ outlandish ideas. That’s why I find 50-year-old Will Pemble’s spirit and child-like enthusiasm quite extraordinary. The father-of-two actually gave in to his son’s bizarre request – to build a rollercoaster in their own back yard. It really makes Will a strong candidate for the title of best dad in the world, don’t you think?
Will is an e-commerce professional, living in San Francisco with his wife and two children (Lyle, 10 and Ellie, 12). He said that he took on the rollercoaster project because he wanted to show his kids that anything is possible if you’re willing to put in the effort. And he’s also a bit of a physics enthusiast, so he thought the project would be a great time to teach his children a fair bit of science.
“How cool would it be for my kids to say when they’re my age, ‘I built a rollercoaster with my dad in the backyard,’” said Will. “I knew this was something they would always remember. I couldn’t think of a single good reason to say no.” So Will and Lyle were off to the lumber yard to buy all the supplies they needed. Then they broke ground in the backyard of their family home.
Will started the project along with his two children in the fall of 2013. During construction, he let the kids use power tools to dig many holes in the ground. After about 300 hours and nearly $3,500 spent, they managed to create 180-foot worth of track made from parallel PVC pipe laid on a wooden flame. That’s interesting because the family’s backyard is quite small (only a quarter of an acre), and they managed to snake in a whole rollercoaster with two big hills.
“Today, our backyard rollercoaster is an unending source of excitement, challenge, education and connection,” Will wrote on his website CoasterDad.com. “I love it because it brings together all three things I love best. Physics, family and fun. The whole family has been involved in the project. The neighbors check in and see how we’re doing. The coaster is complete and fully operational, although we keep adding onto it and making modifications.”
There were a few teething problems initially, just after the rollercoaster was complete. “The track was going up fast and beautiful and we were in high spirits as we ran the new cart down the new track during our first test. Then it happened!” said Will. The cart crashed three times before it started functioning again. “It was time for us to switch from being super pleased with ourselves into a slightly less comfortable, but ultimately more productive mode: namely, learning from Roller Coaster Cart Crash mode!”
The idea for the roller coaster first came to Lyle on their way back from a trip to the local theme park. “We were just back from one of many amusement park trips and Lyle asked a simple question: ‘Why don’t we build a rollercoaster, Dad?’” In fact Lyle is a bit of an expert on rollercoasters – he’s memorized all their track lengths, top speeds and even the companies who make them.
“He’s got a data centric brain,” said Will. “He can remember masses and masses of information. When he gets interested in something he really digs deep.” Lyle also made use of rollercoaster simulation software quite similar to CAD to help design the project. Sounds like he’s quite a smart kid.
Now that the coaster is complete, Will is devoting a lot of his time to his website, where he posts videos about basic ‘backyard science’. There’s also info about major theme parks and rides, including the one in their own house. People are now asking if they do this kind of thing for a living and if Will could build them their own backyard rollercoaster. “If I’m honest, I can’t think of a single good reason to say no, so that could well happen in the future,” he admitted.
“Our mission is purely to share our love of physics, family, and fun so one thing has just led to another. It’s amazing that all of this came from a kid asking one simple question and a dad saying yes.”
Source: SF Gate