Thrills, chills and careful engineering
When Anya Tyler ’11 was young, she knew exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up: design roller coasters.
Today, Tyler is doing just that. She works as a design engineer for Skyline Attractions, an Orlando-based company that designs and manufactures theme park rides and games.
“We spend so much time at work, and if it isn’t something you find interesting and enjoy, why are you there? When you are passionate and interested in what you are doing, your results—ideas, work, products—all show it,” Tyler said.
Tyler first became fascinated with roller coasters during annual summer vacations to Kings Island, an amusement park between Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. A family tragedy, the death of her brother Daniel in a private plane crash when he was 19, solidified Tyler’s resolve to chase the life she wanted.
“He was one of the biggest cheerleaders in my life and encouraged me to make roller coasters,” said Tyler, who grew up in Centennial, Colo., and studied mechanical engineering at Mines. “[His death] taught me earlier than most that life is short and precious, not to take it so seriously and, most importantly, to do something you love.”
When she started applying for internships and, later, full-time jobs, Tyler quickly learned she’d have to be persistent if she was serious about designing coasters. She networked, attended conferences and sought advice until she finally got a job making play structures for water parks.
Tyler eventually landed a position with Great Coasters International, which makes wooden roller coasters. Several of her colleagues there later branched off to form her current employer, Skyline Attractions.
When designing a coaster, safety is always the first and most important consideration, Tyler said.
Engineers must consider the forces a coaster will put on both passengers and its own infrastructure. Will the ride make someone sick? Will the force put too much stress on the ride’s mechanical components? How fast can a coaster safely go around a hairpin turn?
“We have to do the calculations to prove that it’s not going to break, that it’s not going to wear out after thousands of cycles or vibrations from the ride,” she said.
Roughly a year ago, Tyler gained a new perspective on coasters, her career and the relentless pursuit of her dreams: she became a mom. Her family’s mantra, “arms up,” became all the more significant with the birth of her daughter, Alyssa.
“It’s like riding a roller coaster—you put your arms up and lean into the experience, enjoy the ride and just go for it,” she said. “That’s something I hope to embrace and pass down to her as she grows. And to be the one reminding her ‘arms up’ for whatever her path might be.”