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USU, BYU students build backyard roller coaster


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IDAHO FALLS — For two Utah college students and their friends, spending a weekend building a roller coaster in a backyard was the perfect way to send the four off their separate ways.

In August, before the four separated for school and missions, Austin Twede, 19, a mechanical engineering student at Utah State University, along with Ken Nukaya, 21, a Brigham Young University student, Jarrett Lancaster and Porter Harding, both 19, constructed a rollercoaster in Harding’s Idaho Falls backyard for $49.27.

The project started as a bet with Harding’s mother, who bet her son and Twede they couldn’t build a roller coaster in the backyard for less that $50. They found some of their materials — a sheet of plywood, screws and nails — then went to Home Depot for the rest.

By the end of 27 hours, the four had an operational roller coaster in Harding’s backyard and the pride of winning the bet. The manual coaster sent the rider up and down a couple of bumps, getting as high as 10 feet at some points, lit with twinkle lights and was slowed by some carpeting at the end of the 50-foot track.

Their roller coaster was a good project to send Lancaster and Harding off to their missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the two college students away for school, Twede said.

The friends had built ziplines across town and a ski jump in a yard previously, but never a roller coaster. Twede said the projects combine his love of thrills and building.

“We’re always trying to find something new and cool to do,” Twede said.

The coaster has since been torn down, but Twede said they hope to reconstruct it out of PVC pipe, possibly including a flip in the track.

“We just love building stuff,” Twede said.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

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