SAN FRANCISCO — It’s every 10-year-old kid’s dream: walk out the backdoor and take a ride on your own, personal roller coaster.
For one northern California family, that dream is a reality.
In September 2013, Will Pemble and his son Lyle, 10, decided to take on a project of epic proportions.
“After a summer vacation back East, my son Lyle asked if we could build a roller coaster,” Pemble said. “I said 'yes.'”
Pemble said he’s always enjoyed building things. He works as a the chief product strategist at a company in San Francisco and is constantly looking for the next project to build, test and put to use.
“Liz, my wife, wasn't terribly surprised,” Pemble said. “I've been up to nutty, unlikely things all my life, and at every opportunity, I try to teach my kids that we're more likely to regret the things we don't do, than the things we do. Things get a little crazy at the Pemble house from time to time.”
Pemble took his skills as a designer and lay-engineer and began to put together plans for a home-built roller coaster. Since last fall, he’s been able to build a coaster that is not only fun to ride, but, he said, is also structurally sound.
“Everything I've built, I've tested to 200 percent of anticipated load using sandbags,” Pemble said. “The cart is over-built, and has a seat belt. I've put more sand in harm's way than I can calculate, but not one kid has ever been in danger at my house.”
The rails of the coaster are made from flexible PVC pipe and the supports are constructed out of wooden beams. To start the ride, someone must push the cart to the top of the highest incline using a poll. Once released, the cart zooms along the tracks, taking its rider through the Pemples’ backyard in an urban high-excitement adventure.
Pemble said he’s loved the opportunity the project has given him to teach his children about science in a hands-on sort of way.
“It's wonderful to bring physics, family and fun to kids at my house and online,” Pemble said. “I'm working on more science experiments to teach kids different parts of physics, acoustics, chemistry, computers, electronics, and when they're not looking, even math. I've done some cool grown-up things in my life, but nothing compares to the payoff of giving science to kids.”