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High school students get ahead of the curve during engineering program

June 26, 2009

Most high school students are out riding roller coasters during the summer, but about a dozen Valley teenagers are actually building them.

A select group of high school students had the chance to think like roller coaster engineers as part of the Collegiate Scholars Summer Enrichment program at Arizona State University. Through the ASU CSP summer enrichment, select high school students are given the opportunity to work on university-level curriculum in non-credit workshops to get an overview of different areas of study.

Teenage high school students from around the Valley participated in the four-day pilot program sponsored by the Department of Engineering in the College of Technology and Innovation at the Polytechnic campus and the University Student Initiatives Office.

Chell Roberts, department chair and engineering professor, said the roller coaster enrichment is a variation of a college assignment given to first-year students in the Polytechnic engineering program.

“We modified it for this group, but this is indicative of projects our students work on as a freshman,” Roberts said.

Before they started building, students had to do their research. They looked at the world roller coaster market, current roller coaster features, and new roller coasters.

Once that task was completed, students were given the design challenge of building a model roller coaster that has to work on the first try, said Roberts. To guide them, Roberts and other faculty mentored the students on the math and physics behind roller coasters.

“They have to know the math and physics to make a coaster work,” Roberts said.

Students also had the chance to build what they think would be the ultimate roller coaster, as well as design computer-simulated roller coasters.

Roberts said that he would like to grow the Collegiate Scholars summer enrichment program to include projects involving robots and rockets next summer.

“We want to excite today’s youth about engineering,” said Roberts. “We also want to attract the best and brightest students to ASU. That’s why we’re doing this program.”

For more information about the Collegiate Scholars program, visit or contact Mark Duplissis at (480) 965-2621.


Chris Lambrakis,
(480) 727-1173
Public Affairs at ASU Polytechnic campus