As part of their prize, 2015/16 Challenge champions Hall Park Academy won a trip to Legoland Windsor. Imogen Tomlinson and Hannah Lakritz tell us about their visit.

13 Oct 2016

We all love theme parks, eager to feel the thrills of the wind in our hair but has anyone actually thought through what makes it work in the first place, creating theme parks that last for decades?

How do engineers keep them safe? What kind of hardware is required to run a theme park control system?

To get insight, we went to Legoland Windsor to unravel a few behind-the-scenes tech secrets behind theme park rides and how they’re engineered. Once the creative team comes up with the concept, it’s up to the engineers to build it and there are many, many different kinds who all work together to create the finished product.

So who does what?

When you visit a theme park like Legoland, you will at some point go on a ride whereby your vehicle moves. Props move. Any pieces of a ride that move like vehicles, doors, wheels, set pieces are designed by mechanical engineers. Rides can contain thousands of moving parts. They must be designed to be dependable for years. And don’t forget about the building the ride’s housed in, too. Architectural engineers are the ones who ensure the buildings remain standing, even with millions of pounds of moving vehicles and special effects equipment inside.

Hall Park Academy outside Nexo Knights Kingdom

Hall Park Academy outside Nexo Knights Kingdom

Let’s say you go on a ride like a haunted mansion (Haunted Mansion is an attraction at the Legoland Billund in Denmark, and is expected to open at Windsor in the near future)  all of the unusual illusions on rides are courtesy of special effects designers, who use engineering know-how to create them. These designers might even replicate smells. Their designs incorporate lots of different technology: mechanics, chemistry, electronics, projection, pneumatics (air), and even cryogenics.

One of the most fascinating things for us on something like a haunted mansion ride is problem of the lighting. How do you get the right lighting to create the spooky feel above? Lighting designers are the ones who select the perfect lamps, lighting fixtures, and colour filters to create just the right mood in attractions. Lighting can range from spotlights to neon to lasers—and everything in between.

And then there are our favourite types of ride of all time; the rides where you shoot at a video screen. Audio/video engineers are the ones who design the systems that play, amplify, and distribute audio and video. After you blast away some targets, you exit the ride safely, but who was responsible for ensuring its safety? Ride control engineers. They analyse the ride control systems, looking for any failure points in hardware, software, and mechanics. And who understands how the whole attraction operates and how all the systems (like lighting, mechanical, A/V, facility) are connected? Show control engineers. So next time you visit a theme park see how much hidden engineering you can find.

Imogen Tomlinson and Hannah Lakritz — Hall Park Academy

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