The Perse School

Learning the maths of thrills at Disneyland Paris

28 Feb 2014

For three days during half-term, 50 Year 8 pupils descended on Disneyland Paris to study the maths and physics of rollercoaster design. All pupils had undertaken three hours of extra after-school lessons before the trip, in which they studied the application of energy, forces, speed, acceleration, Pythagoras’ Theorem and trigonometry to theme park rides. With forces over 5g leading to loss of vision and forces over 10g resulting in possible death (!), engineers need to balance the thrill and intensity of a ride with safety at all times. In the final lesson, all pupils had the opportunity to put theory into practice by designing their own “rollercoaster curves” using quadratic graphs.

While at Disneyland, pupils enjoyed two further rollercoaster maths seminars, including behind-the-scenes footage from the Disney engineers, as well as a practical workshop in the Gaumont Cinema. Most importantly of all, pupils were given plenty of free time to experience the thrill of the rides and the magic of Disney for themselves. The packed schedule (including hotly contested Disney and maths quizzes back at the hotel each evening) ensured that everybody returned happy but exhausted by the end of the trip!

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