Crazy for Coasters

Jake Fannon plans to make his roller coaster passion into a career

Alex Beyerlein, Writer

The first roller coaster sophomore Jake Fannon rode was Splash Mountain, and it changed his life forever. As it built up anticipation, letting him believe he would run into the thorns and spikes, it dipped at the last second and left him full of laughter and enjoyment. Fannon knew from that point on that he had a passion for roller coasters.

As Fannon grew older, he became less interested in the outer workings of roller coasters and more interested in the engineering behind them. He has found his hobby and is turning it into a passion, wanting to major in mechanical engineering in college.

“[I am interested] in the whole engineering branch of themed entertainment, so one day I can work for a company that designs theme park rides,” Fannon said.  

Fannon is trying to make himself stand out at a young age in order to be successful and reach his potential. He has been in engineering classes for three years, is a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, has established connections with Public Relations Directions of theme parks in Arkansas and Missouri and has a YouTube channel.

“You just have to know your stuff [and] not be afraid to talk to people and just kind of put yourself out there,” Fannon said.

He is planning to apply to the University of Texas at Austin, the only school in the south with a theme park engineering group. He has been working rigorously to be an exceptional candidate.

“While I am trying to get an engineering degree, I can also meet people within the industry,” Fannon said. ”Once I have said degree, I also have contacts within the industry.”

Fannon especially admires engineer Alan Schilke, who reconstructed the Texas Giant, designed the 4th Dimension roller coaster, X coaster, and works with Arrow Dynamics. He is a design engineer at Ride Centerline LLC in Hayden, Idaho.

“I aspire to be the next Alan Schilke and create the next great theme park innovation,” Fannon said.

Sophomore Carly Lidzy has been friends with Fannon for seven years. Ever since they were little, she noticed that Fannon enjoyed building things, whether it was with Legos or marble and paper roller coasters.

Because Fannon is a part of American Coaster Enthusiasts, Lidzy was  able to go with him to participate in Coaster Christmas, an annual event put on by Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri with presentations from various roller coaster parks, VIP seats and behind the scene looks at the newest addition to the park, the  Time Traveler roller coaster.

“[We] got to eat free food, watch some presentations from the park, and they gave everyone free swag,” Lidzy said.

Because of his connections at such a young age and a solid background in engineering, Lidzy has full faith that Fannon has a future in roller coaster engineering.

“I can almost guarantee that someday he is going to be working for a park where he can spout all of his knowledge, and people will want to listen,” Lidzy said.