UWE graduates design rides on new pier at Weston-Super-Mare

Issue date: 10 June 2010

Weston Graduates from the Product Design course at the University of the West of England have worked on the design and manufacture of some of the rides and amusements on the newly rebuilt Grand Pier at Weston-Super-Mare. The new pier is due to open for business this summer.

Just one year after graduation Matt Tucker, Doug Campbell and Neil Macqueen have been working with Gravitron, a specialist company based in Stroud, to come up with a range of new and exciting rides and amusements for Weston- Super-Mare's star tourist attraction that opens in June. Gravitron are designers and manufacturers of electric vehicles, rides and drive systems for the leisure, service and automotive industries.

The flag ship ride is a Go Kart track with an electric floor. UWE graduate Matt Tucker has been working on the 300m track that is made up from 100 tons of steel, he said, “We're sure people will be thrilled to take a ride on Gravitron's unique electric floored track. Karts pick up current from a constant loop of electricity negating the need for batteries. One set of karts race around the track and two sets while one set are in the embarking pit so this allows a quick turnover of rides. The system is low noise, low emissions and ideal for an indoor space like the pier.

“I'm absolutely certain that my degree at UWE was integral to getting me the work with Gravitron. It's been really exciting to work on such a thrilling project from beginning to end.”

Doug Campbell is working on various aspects of the new fun house including a giant hamster wheel, moving stairs, piston walkways, a ski slider, spinning discs and vertical rollers. The fun house has been custom designed by Gravitron. Doug said, “I was the first graduate from UWE to begin working at Gravitron after sending a speculative application. I was fortunate to be involved in the initial pitching for the contract to design the rides on the new pier. The rides have been great fun to work on – we have been involved in all aspects from design to build. The course at UWE really helped me get this job and I've actually recommended it to a friend who is now studying towards a product design degree.”

Neil Macqueen is involved with rides including the helter skelter, the ghost train and the dodgems. Talking about the design challenges he said, “We designed the helter skelter with a twin helix, a highly complex geometric shape to work with. There are two slides to choose from, people walk up through the centre of a 12.5 metre spiral staircase to the top of one of the pier towers and then have a choice of two slides, a constant slide that twists around the outer edge of the tower, and a much faster slide that tapers inwards as riders reach the bottom. The course at UWE gave me the material understanding, a firm grip of engineering principles and the good practice at working to a brief in a way that is client focused. I also represented UWE on a KTP with Formflo which opened up some great learning opportunities.”

Heather Latham, Gravitron Managing Director, is delighted with the input from the UWE graduates who she describes as sponges who soak up everything as they go along. “They've obviously all loved working on the pier rides and the injection of enthusiasm has been tremendously refreshing for all of us working at Gravitron. They were all able to hit the road running at 100 miles an hour but we have been able to mould them to our way of working. It was good to have Doug on board during the project tendering process and he recommended fellow graduates who have joined us as the project has grown.”

Gravitron say that the pier is their biggest contract to date and that the company has mushroomed since it set up in 2006. Heather continues, “Gravitron grew out of another company that I have been running with my husband for the past 13 years. We now employ 40 highly skilled people. If the three graduates we have taken on from Product Design course are anything to go by UWE is absolutely doing something right. They're all brilliant!”

David Henshall from UWE's Product Design course said, “We're delighted to hear that our graduates are doing so well with a local company working on such an exciting project. All students were first class and we are confident that they will continue to go onto to achieve great things.”

To find out more about the Product Design Course at UWE see http://www.uwe.ac.uk/cems/undergraduate/productdesign/index.shtml

The Bristol Institute of Technology will showcase the final year degree project work of all students including those from the Product Design course at the end of year show on 11 June 2010.
See http://www.uwe.ac.uk/cems/degreeshow/index.shtml for details for details.


Editor's Notes

The UK company Gravitron was established in Dursley, Gloucestershire in 1995 by Heather Latham (Financial Director) and Morgan Nicholas (Technical Director) to manufacture electric vehicles.

They quickly identified an opportunity to create and market the petrol-free electric go-karts which accounted for much of the growth of their business in its early years.

Despite the fact that electric go-karts can cost as much as three times those fuelled by petrol, low maintenance and running costs mean that the total outlay over a three-year period is lower and as electric go-karts are environmentally-friendlier with none of the fumes and pollution associated with fossil fuels, there is no requirement to invest in the costly extraction equipment required when petrol-fuelled go-karts are used on indoor tracks.

Building on the success of its electric go-karts, Gravitron developed its business to embrace the design and manufacture of comparable products including children's karts, electric boats and snowmobiles.

In an expansion move early in 2009, the company relocated to its present premises in the Cotswold town of Stroud where it employs 40 people – including world-class designers, engineers, welders, electricians, carpenters and artists – engaged in the design, construction and installation of a wide range of unique bespoke rides and attractions for use by the leisure and entertainment industry, notably on piers, in amusement parks, the grounds of historic homes and holiday parks in the UK and around the world.

For more details of the custom-designed rides and attractions made by Gravitron for piers, amusement parks, historic homes and holiday parks in the UK and around the world visit www.gravitron.co.uk

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