Kalamazoo College's Student Newspaper
By Elaine Ezekiel, News Editor
Few people outside of the library staff know this secret about Kalamazoo College: deep in the bowels of Upjohn lies a roller coaster.
It’s a giant KNEX model, assembled by Help Desk Administrator Russell Cooper ’89 in his office. Cooper had seen photos of people building these model coasters, mostly in their basements, but he opted to construct one in his office starting with a 3- by 2-foot set.
Then he went on eBay and bought five more sets of the Screamin’ Serpent, and he got to work.
“I always did it during work hours, only during lunch and after work,” he said.
He started building in a cubicle, but moved the whole coaster when he switched to an office in the Center for New Media Design.
“When I was back [in the cubicle], I blocked off too many of my drawers and cabinets,” he said.
Over four months, he redesigned and constructed the track to double back on itself instead of preventing access to his office door.
The ride circuit runs along the perimeter of his office and it even pops over the drop ceiling on the biggest inclines. It’s battery operated to climb the two lift hills and sports rope lights on the side of the track. The small cars holding plastic dolls whiz over the loops, twists and dips.
Cooper’s quirky structure is a manifestation of a passion for roller coasters. “I’m kind of a nerd about it. Every time I go on vacation I make sure to check out the roller coasters there,” he said.
On his first trip to Cedar Point in fifth grade, he ended up getting sick on the bus ride home, but he was hooked for life.
For his 40th birthday, he went to California with the goal of riding 40 coasters in one vacation.
“I got 48 easily, just in California,” he said.
After traveling through 11 states and six countries, and riding 210 different rides in search of the best coaster, he says Ohio’s Cedar Point still has his favorite — Millennium Force, which he’s ridden over 300 times.
“It’s tall, it’s fast, there’s no shoulder restraints, no loops. I like the thrill of going that high and going that fast,” he said. “The sick thing about all this is roller coasters make me motion sick.”
He says he can only get in a full day of riding if he pops a Dramamine as soon as he gets to the park.
“They don’t scare me; they make me ill,” he added.
His office coaster doesn’t make him ill, though. It’s a motivator to come into work, waiting until he can get back to an amusement park.
On coming into his windowless office and seeing his roller coaster, Cooper says, “It makes me happy.”