Queen’s student builds backyard roller-coaster

Thornhill resident David Chesney built his own roller-coaster

Some people build a deck in their backyard.

Thornhill resident, David Chesney, built a roller-coaster.

The Queen’s University student, who just completed his first year of engineering studies, used his knowledge and interest to put a few items together to become something much bigger.

“I had some old scrap metal that a neighbour gave me, and I had a treadmill from which I took a few things, and I ended up with a track and some sort of cart-type thing,” said Chesney, 18. “I was like, ‘maybe I can do something with this.’

“I got a few more pieces of wood and kept expanding and expanding, and eventually, I got to the point where I had a decent-sized roller-coaster.”

It seemed like a natural thing, at least given Chesney’s interests.

“I’ve had a season pass to Canada’s Wonderland since I was a kid and I’ve always loved roller-coasters, so it’s something I’ve been interested in and want to pursue in the future, too,” Chesney said.

The structure in Chesney’s parents’ backyard looked insignificant originally, but now you can’t miss it.

“I think at first it was so small they didn’t really think anything of it,” Chesney said. “And then, it started to get bigger.

“They didn’t want to stop me because it was going up so fast, and then it got to a point where they wanted me to finish it, because we all wanted to see what it would look like when it’s completely done.”

Have his parents complained about a quickly rising mass of wood and metal in their backyard?

“No, not really,” said Chesney with a laugh. “I think they were more amazed by the fact that I did it than that it was a bit of an eyesore.

“But really, it’s not that unattractive looking.”

The track is essentially built at this point, but Chesney is still looking to add to his coaster.

“In Grade 12, in my computer science course, I developed hardware and software to automatically run the ride,” said Chesney, a graduate of the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto’s northern campus. “I just have a control board where I can push a green button, and the ride will run itself using sensors and motors and all sorts of stuff like that.

“The next step to building the coaster would be to implement this system and see if it can run on its own.”

Although he didn’t get much of a chance to work on it during his winter semester in Kingston, Chesney did find other ways to stay busy.

“I developed an iPhone app when I got bored studying during exams,” said Chesney, who is also a member of the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi at Queen’s. “I was able to program it, develop it and release it in about a month or so.”

His app, called “Stack ‘Em Up”, is similar to the Stacker video game at arcades, in which the player tries to stack three blocks on top of the ones on the previous row as they slide across the screen at increasing speed.

“In my game, you get points for stacking the blocks up and then you get to the next level and try to beat your friend’s high score,” Chesney said.

It’s part of Chesney’s nature to always be doing something.

“I just like to keep myself busy,” he said. “I don’t like being bored, and so whenever I have some free time, I’ll start a project or continue on one, because I don’t like doing nothing.

“I always like being productive when I can, so I’ll start programming an app or think of a way to expand my ride or think of anything really, just thinking.”

The next step for his coaster could potentially be to make it safe to ride, although that’s more of a legal issue at this point.

“Technically it can [be ridden], but I wouldn’t put anyone on it,” Chesney said. “There’s still a few things I want to work on with it and a few pieces of metal I want to weld on to the cart, as well as finishing up the last catch car, which is the thing that pulls it up to the top of the hills.

“Once those are done, a person could theoretically go on it, but I’m not putting anyone on it yet though, because of legal issues,” Chesney added. “I’ll just have to speak to a lawyer and figure out if there are any legalities I’m not aware of.

“It’s all ready to go, it’s just a matter of finishing up the minor details and trying it out.”

What does the active-minded teenager have in store next?

“I don’t know, I haven’t really thought of it yet,” said Chesney with a laugh. “I’ll just wait until I finish this and then see what else I think of, what sounds enticing to me, and try something else.”