Designing roller coasters is a thrill for Jordan Dearing-Hardiman.

The Columbus Academy graduate went on a seven-month ride for his senior project, making a model roller coaster with 3D-printed pieces he designed on SolidWorks, a computer-aided design and engineering program.

Dearing-Hardiman, 18, of Gahanna built the 95-foot-long roller coaster in his spare time -- hundreds of hours, every single school day for the seven months -- on the grounds of the school, 4300 Cherry Bottom Road in Gahanna.

Construction of the 1:34 scale model started in the school's Makerspace Lab and was completed in May in the Morris Hall arts gallery, where it remains.

"For the most part, I'm (happy) with it," he said. "I'm happy I finished the track. In the future, I know there's easier ways to make it. There's better ways. This was all trial and error."

He said he started with one piece he made on SolidWorks.

"I didn't know how big I wanted the rest of my ride to be," he said. "My track design changed to make it wider and a little bigger and able to hold a train."

Then he started building pieces for the lift hill.

"I wanted it to be realistic," Dearing-Hardiman said.

He said each piece of the coaster is made of plastic that comes in a large roll.

"Every time I go to print a piece, I don't know what's going to be next," Dearing-Hardiman said. "It takes a lot of trial and error. That's how I built it."

Physical limitations mean the roller coaster only is a model, he said, with the train needing to be pushed by hand to reach its destination.

"I knew it would be hard to get the train running originally, because of the weight difference," Dearing-Hardiman said. "A normal train on a roller coaster is easily 5,000 to 10,000 pounds. This isn't even 1/10, maybe 2/10 of a pound. Everything is so much heavier. Friction, I couldn't have a lot of it. ... I was kind of upset about it."

Bob Lee, Columbus Academy's director of communications, said he watched the coaster's progress from his office.

"He (created) every single piece by himself, which combines all sorts of mathematical, artistic and technology skills, since he studies and shapes them digitally and then produces them via a 3D printer and laser-cutting machine," Lee said.

Dearing-Hardiman said he always has liked roller coasters and annually visits Cedar Point in Sandusky.

That inspired his senior project, a graduation requirement that is not part of a class.

For the final three weeks of classes, all Columbus Academy seniors are involved in one of four options, Lee said. They can complete an internship (working with a mentor in an area of interest), an independent study (acquiring new knowledge and/or skills through a significant challenge), service learning (doing community service with a nonprofit agency that does not count toward a student's service-hours requirement), or an intensive course or seminar/workshop. One group this year is learning life skills to meet the latter, Lee said.

Dearing-Hardiman's roller coaster was considered an independent study.

Todd Martin, Dearing-Hardiman's senior-project adviser, said his student recently visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and was asked why he was staring at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a steel roller coaster at the park.

He said he wanted to see how the ride operates, Martin said.

Dearing-Hardiman likes to educate others with facts on roller coasters and amusement parks, and he also thinks about repurposing old coasters.

"Some parks take down rides and make it something else," he said.

Dearing-Hardiman said he envisions Cedar Point's Corkscrew roller coaster being longer, higher and less bumpy.

He said he probably won't print out and make another original roller coaster as he focuses on plans to study mechanical engineering and play baseball at Ohio University.

He said he designed 400 pieces on SolidWorks, making 230 for the track and the rest for the coaster's train.

Martin said the coaster started as a QuestWorks project that allows students to apply for a $200 grant to work on anything that interests them outside of a classroom's scope.

QuestWorks is a program for Columbus Academy's older students, modeled after the Skunk Works research-and-development labs at Lockheed Martin Corp., according to the school website. By not grading the work, students rely on intrinsic motivation through several rounds of risk-taking, building, failing and regrouping, the website said.

"Jordan is really interested in roller coasters, and said he wanted to apply for a QuestWorks grant to design and print a roller coaster," Martin said. "He started with a small idea of making one a couple feet high and it became this."

The finished coaster is 95 feet long and 8 feet high.

"He had an idea to do this as a senior project, as well, and knew this would be outside the scope of the three weeks the normal senior project takes," Martin said. "That's why the QuestWorks started back in November. He would come to the Makerspace almost every day before school, after school and his free periods, and be working on the design part using SolidWorks and 3D printing on one of several printers at school to actually print the track, assemble it by hand, then sand and file and glue it altogether and test it.

"It's not for a grade or award, but just out of a passion."

The future of the coaster is undecided, Martin said. Dearing-Hardiman might disassemble it and leave it at Columbus Academy for other students to work on or take the sections apart and take it home, Martin said.

One thing is for certain: Dearing-Hardiman said he plans to visit Cedar Point this summer.

"I like to watch the roller coasters," he said. "I really like the Maverick the most. There's one element after another, and it's pretty quick."

Dearing-Hardiman said he hopes to earn an internship to inspect rides.

"I'd like hands-on experience," he said. "There are a lot of things I want to do. What I want to do is design -- have my own park."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla