Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fairground Thrill Laboratory Week 3

The third and final week in the Thrill Laboratory series looked at the link between thrill and excitement. The evening had a space theme on this occasion and the ride tonight was a booster ride.

First up on the speakers front was Jack Souiljee from KMG who gave a history of the booster ride and how he was inspired to build such a ride following a ride on a 7G monster (if only we could get to ride that!). He then went on to talk about the design process and how a ride moves from an idea in someone's head through the mathematical analysis, model building and final test. I had a chance to chat very briefly with him later and he revealed that the company had two new rides at the mathematical stage and would be announcing them at next year's IAAPA if the analysis went well.

The second speaker was different to say the least. Neil Gordon Orr from the Association of Autonomous Astronauts, a group of people who felt cheated by the unfulfilled promises of space travel made to them when they were young. Now they aspire to live those dreams through even though they can't afford to. Some did manage to experience a parabolic flight, which is as close as you can get to space. Others have to make do with climbing frames and fairground rides to get the buzz. It was the climbing frame aspect that threw me. He had quite a collection of climbing frames from around the world. Whilst I sometimes think I'm a bit obsessive in travelling to visit theme parks, this guy took that obsessive behaviour to a different level.

Then for those in the room not familiar with the monitoring kit Brendan Walker, the event coordinator and Alex Taylor from Cambridge gave a quick demo before we were led upstarits to the next presentations.

Dan Howland gave a quick history of the Booster, taking us from the early big wheels through some variations to the Booster ride that was sitting outside. The first big wheels were human powered with ride ops climbing into the cars to weigh them down before climbing up into the next car to do the same. This got a good chuckle from the audience but they had to reconsider when he said that there were rides in India that were still powered the same way today.

Unfortunately I didn't get the next guy's name but I think it may have been Nic Leveque, an expert in G-Forces. Anyway, he gave a speech on how gravitational attraction works using sexual threesomes as an analogy. The speech was a little close to the knuckle but it did get the point across.

Then it was on to the ride. Boosters that I'd ridden in the past are usually out in the open. This was surrounded by large buildings which made for some interesting shadow casting on the walls.
From the top of the ride though you got to see out over London and on this particular evening you could also see firework displays going on around London. This evening was worth it just for this.

Once again I didn't get to ride with the kit, but others did and there were some very entertaining responses being beamed back for us to watch. Its nice to see first timers ride these things.

London so needs big rides like this. One of my most memorable vistas was of the Las Vegas Strip when seen from the top of a launch tower on the Stratosphere Tower. London has to do have the same thing. We do have the London Eye to offer a view of London but its enclosed. I think it would be better if we had a ride like the booster on top of a large building. I for one would go and see the views on a regular basis if it ever happened.

Here's some of the footage being beamed back. It looks like this girl enjoyed it!

This is the equipment that does all the tracking. Speaking to the guys who built it I was surprised to find that the kit wasn't being reused after tonight. I did say that there may have been some parks that could have been interested in the technology and they should consider seeing if there's an opportunity to make money from it.

At the end of the event it was nice to see the organisers having a go on the ride too. Even if they didn't want to let go of the ride, which we were trying to get them to do.

All in all the events have been excellent and they get you thinking about more than just the ride. Its great to see this kind of event taking place in London and chatting to the organisers they would like to repeat the program in the future as it has been the most successful event to date. However the Roper effect has kicked in and local residents have complained about the noise that the rides were making. (For those that don't know the Ropers are a couple that won an injunction against Alton Towers about the level of noise they make). Whether the event does reappear remains to be seen, I hope it does!
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