As I have mentioned multiple times before, I have a strong passion for the themed entertainment industry. More specifically, I one day hope to design and construct roller coasters all over the world. One thing about the themed entertainment industry is that it is very small. Because of this, it is important to get to know as many people as you can. It is a very close-knit community of professionals, so if one professional can recognize you from conferences, interviews, etc., it can only help me in the long run. Because of this, I chose to interview Jonathan Wocher of The Gravity Group, LLC. Gravity Group is located in Cincinnati, OH and specializes in wooden roller coasters. The company has multiple projects globally and is highly successful in their coasters.
As a mechanical engineer, Jonathan works primarily on the trains of the rides. He personally has only worked on trains for most of his time with Gravity Group. A lot of the coasters are similar in size, so a lot of the mechanics of what he does can be carried over from ride to ride. Since I primarily want to focus on the structural aspect of ride construction, I asked if Mr. Wocher had done any of this himself. He said that for the most part, he has worked strictly with mechanical tasks such as parts ordering, project management, to name a few. Since the Gravity Group is a small company, however, he said that most of the engineers do a little bit of everything.
Jonathan ranges from working on one to five projects per year. Most parks that are not full-season open at the same time, making the demand for coasters high in the offseason. He said personally his first projects are the most memorable. He mostly worked with drafting and enjoyed rides like Zippin Pippin, Dueling Coasters in China, Twister in Sweden, and Quasi (timberliners), each using different details. It was exciting for him to be able to implement new concepts into wooden roller coasters that have not been used before.
Ever since he was a kid, Jon was interested in roller coaster design, as was I. He, therefore, tailored his career in engineering towards that. It was a goal for him to be in the industry but he was not going to count on it due to the small, competitive nature of the industry. He stated that he still could be in a career that he enjoys without being a roller coaster designer. In general, he knew regardless he would be in a career he enjoyed. Engineering and roller coasters went hand in hand for him in his education and early career. In addition to his mechanical engineering major, Jonathan was a business minor. He said he very much enjoyed is business classes and said they definitely helped him develop himself from a management standpoint. He also took additional classes such as C++ to supplement his degree. Overall, he says his degree was worthwhile and he’s glad of how it turned out.
As a final word, Jonathan Wocher instructed me to continue to do what I was doing. He said I have a good vision in mind of how I would like my career to turn out. Despite this vision, he warned me not to pick an “ideal” job right now due to the high number of options in the industry, and to stay open to new opportunities. He told me to always keep checking to make sure what I am doing is in line with my goals, and to make sure I never stop learning skills that will help me in the long run.