Beast designer visits middle school

By Lenny C. Lepola -

Big Walnut Middle School seventh grade Science students had a special visitor last week, Jeffrey W. Gramke, Manager of Facilities, Engineering & Construction at Kings Island. Gramke is the guy who designed The Beast.

When it opened in 1979, The Beast was the tallest, fastest, and longest wooden roller coaster in the world. The Beast is still the longest wooden coaster in the world and the longest roller coaster in the US. It spans more than 35 acres, and features a lengthy ride time that lasts more than four minutes.

Middle school science teacher Keri Kotchounian said the seventh graders were doing a module on energy transformation. Their studies during the first half of the grading period focused specifically on energy transformations in roller coasters, and the students prepared paper roller coasters to demonstrate those transformations.

Kotchounian said she reached out to several professionals asking for their help in an attempt to bring the real world to the students to help them make connections during the project. Two class periods were fortunate to have Google hangouts with other engineers from other engineering companies.

“Jeff Gramke reached out to me last week and asked what he could do to help,” Kotchounian said. “I suggested another Google hangout, but he said he was willing to come into the classroom. It was late in the project, so I asked if he was willing to sit on our panel of experts that were evaluating the students, and he was.”

About 50 students gathered in the middle school library last Wednesday morning where Gramke spoke about his work and the energy and science behind roller coasters and other amusement park rides. Kotchounian said the presentation was videotaped and will be shared with other middle school students.

Gramke, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Civil Engineering, told the gathered students that amusement park ride designs are driven by demographics.

Asked by one student what he is currently working on, Gramke said amusement parks are very protective about what’s coming down the pike.

“I can’t even tell my family what we’re working on,” Gramke said. “But I can say that it’s going to be good.”

About 20 students were able to have their projects evaluated by Gramke as a part of a panel, Kotchounian said. Two students were drawn from a raffle and were able to join Kotchounian, Rich Smith, and Gramke for lunch to get a chance to talk to him in a smaller group setting.

Kotchounian said students were excited to have Gramke come to the middle school, and were eager, if somewhat nervous, to be presenting their paper roller coaster projects with the designer of The Beast sitting on the evaluation panel.

“Having him join us gave students the opportunity to see how their studies connect to real world careers,” Kotchounian said. “I saw students really understanding the importance of the work they were doing in the classroom in the past several days when they realized they may be presenting to a real engineer – especially the engineer who designed The Beast.”

To ride The Beast from the comfort of your chair, go to < > and hold on.

By Lenny C. Lepola

Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093

Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093