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U. engineer builds 3 roller coasters in his backyard for grandkids

(Courtesy of Paul Gregg)


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SEATTLE — In the two years since Paul Gregg retired, he’s picked up an unusual hobby: designing and building roller coasters in his backyard.

After graduating from the University of Utah with a mechanical engineering degree in 1979, Gregg spent his entire career working at Boeing in research and development. He applied the same skills he used to come up with new structural concepts for aerospace to the roller coasters.

“I saw a couple of people who tried (making backyard coasters) online and I thought I could do it a lot better, so things got out of control,” he laughed.

What started as an attempt to make one backyard coaster for his grandchildren quickly led to the creation of three: the original coaster, a larger coaster, and a small coaster called the Little Rocket for kids as young as two. Gregg, who lives in the Seattle area, said his six grandchildren love to ride the roller coasters.

The grandfather built all three coasters, which are interwoven in his yard, in the span of about nine months. He did everything himself and was methodological in his process.

“I did all the physics and ... a whole bunch of engineering stuff,” he said. “I documented it with PowerPoint charts, so I have about 150 pages of information. I don’t know why. I’m just used to documenting, so whenever I did a test or some analysis or a new design I documented it in that way.”

Gregg’s son Kyle, who lives in Provo, was so impressed by his father’s efforts that he told him he wanted to write a book. Videos of the coasters and Gregg’s tests can be found on his YouTube channel, Backyard Rollercoasters. Updates can also be found on his website.

For Gregg, the backyard coasters are just a fun project. Every time his grandchildren visit, he pulls out the carts so they can ride with adult supervision. He’s currently working on designs for another cart that he thinks might work even better.

“The kids love them and it keeps me using my engineering skills,” he said.

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Natalie Crofts

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