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Backyard Coaster

When his son said it would be cool to have a roller coaster in their Orinda backyard, Will Pemble—part social media and e-commerce consultant, part mad scientist—got to work.


Will Pemble


Q: Really? You built this?

A: I told [my son] Lyle, “OK, we’ll do this, but you’ve got to get in the game.” And he did. We did some research—checked YouTube to see if anyone had ever done it, studied different designs. Then, we did the math. We figured out materials, and in six weeks or so, it was done. My daughter, Ellie, came up with the name, The Caution Zone.

Q: How was the first run?

A: Fantastic! There’s a video of [Lyle’s] first ride. He’s just screaming the whole way down. I really want my kids to be open to exploring things. I want them to do crazy stuff—to make mistakes, to learn, to try.

Q: Is the coaster permanent?

A: My wife, Liz, and I have wondered if the kids’ interest in the project would fatigue faster than the materials. Happily, I think it’ll work out about even. It’ll come down in the fall.

Q: What’s  your next big project?

A: A weather balloon. We’ll send it up to about 115,000 feet into near space. It’ll have cameras. At that height, you can actually see the curve of the Earth. The balloon will pop and fall back to Earth with a parachute. We’ll track it with GPS, go get it, and watch the footage. We’re also going to build a little leaf blower–powered hovercraft.

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