Werner Stengel in front of the Colossos roller coaster in Heidepark, Germany
(Photo: Courtesy Ing. Büro Stengel)

Roller Coaster Designer Werner Stengel receives Honorary Doctorate

The Faculty of Science at Göteborg university has awarded Werner Stengel the title Doctor honoris causa.
... in recognition of his inexhaustible creativity which connects physics and design with the experience of the body in roller coasters and other rides.
Werner Stengel's career in the amusement industry started in 1963 when he joined Anton Schwarzkopf [1]. One of their first joint projects was the first German roller coaster, the Super Acht, which had its premier for the Oktoberfest in Munich in 1964. Since then, he and his team have been involved in nearly 500 roller coasters around the world, as well as in many other types of rides, including ferris wheels, bumper cars, water rides and 92 different carousel types. The Roller Coaster Data Base, writes about his work [2]:
"Simply put, Werner Stengel has been involved with more roller coasters than anyone. Stengel is involved with so many roller coasters because he does not build or sell the roller coasters, but works with most of the manufacturers that do. The type of work provided by Stengel varies from client to client and project to project. These services include design, layout and calculations for every aspect of roller coasters as well as other amusement rides. "

Throughout his career, his work has brought many innovations to the field and we are likely to encounter some of them as we strap down for a roller coaster ride, as discussed elsewhere in this issue [3,4]. Since 1988 Werner Stengel is part of a research group investigating health strains on the human body in roller coasters, especially during inversions.

Roller coaster innovations in education

Werner Stengel's roller coaster innovations provide wonderful examples for physics and math education: Sections of extended airtime are useful to help straighten out common student misconceptions about weightlessness [3]. The track shape for a clothoid loop can be an interesting programming exercise and the appearance of Fresnel integrals and Cornu spirals in another context than diffraction demonstrates the ubiquitous presence of mathematics [4]. The mathematical concept of a space curve may seem abstract - but not to the rider in another of Werner Stengel's roller coaster innovations. The usefulness of the "g-force" concept is closely linked to the equivalence between inertial and gravitational mass. Roller coasters provide inspiring examples of mathematics, physics and technology in positive settings and the enjoyment of roller coasters is essentially gender-neutral. In roller coasters, a lot of the fun is physics!
  1. Ing. Büro Stengel, http://www.rcstengel.com
  2. The Roller Coaster Database, http://www.rcdb.com
  3. A roller coaster viewed through motion tracker data, A-M Pendrill and H Rödjegård, this issue
  4. Roller Coaster Loop Shapes, A-M Pendrill, this issue