Waterloo's latest Engineering grads take capstone judges for a ride

 Prof. Denis Beaulieu (Laval (retired)), James St Onge, Graeme Milligan, Stephen Phillips, and Prof. Charles Darwin Annan

Left to right: Professor Denis Beaulieu, James St Onge, Graeme Milligan, Stephen Phillips, and Professor Charles Darwin Annan

Every year, engineering students from across da face-off in the ultimate structural design challenge. This year’s competition, hosted by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) annual conference in London, Ontario, invited Canadian universities to submit one capstone design project for consideration. Out of 39 talented design teams, University of Waterloo selected “Four Flags Amusement” to represent Warriors on the CSCE stage.
Mock version of the rollercoaster

The team of four civil engineering students, James St.Onge, Stephen Phillips, Peter Loudfoot, and Graeme Milligan, proudly unveiled the result of a year’s work earlier last month. Their project, entitled: “Flying-Wing Roller Coaster Design” managed to impress the judges, securing third place nationally.

Despite the strong finish, the team faced their fair share of ups-and-downs along the way. Due to the unique nature of the project, there wasn’t much in terms of design standards that the the team could rely on, explained Milligan:

We needed to conduct a large amount of literature review, as well as hold multiple meetings with industry professionals. Combining their expertise with our knowledge allowed us to create a design procedure we could use.

After overcoming their first challenge, the engineering graduates didn’t have long to celebrate before hitting another hurdle. Nearing the completion of their rollercoaster, the team decided to run a structural analysis in order to make sure their design was sound. With over 3500 individual elements (pieces), it took the computer over a week to complete.

When we got the results, we realized that there was an error in our model. As a result, we had to re-run everything, which turned into a bit of a time crunch. We ended up breaking the model up into sections, and running those sections on 10+ computers for 3 hours each, notes Loudfoot.

Luckily, the team managed to finish their design in time for the competition.

Although the project is now wrapped up, James’ passion for rollercoaster design has only been intensified. The budding engineer sees amusement ride design as a potential career path after graduate school. The rest of the team isn’t yet sure of what the future holds, but for now, the entire gang is returning to Waterloo in September to pursue Master’s degrees in Structural Engineering.

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