All About Apollo Engineering Design Group with founder Josh Adams
From amusement ride equipment to overhead cranes, Apollo Engineering Design Group’s wide-ranging experience enables them to provide exceptional engineering, design, analysis, scanning, and testing services. This special design and engineering firm is owned and operated by Josh Adams, a professional engineer with experience designing amusement rides, autonomous robots, heavy construction equipment, investment casting, and aircraft landing gear. We recently had a chance to get to know Josh, his company, and the unique services they provide. Thanks to Josh for taking the time to talk with us!
C101: For those who don’t know, please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Josh Adams. I am a Professional Mechanical Engineer and Founding Principal of Apollo Engineering Design Group. I went to Utah State University and have spent my career working in various sectors of industry. I started in military aerospace and moved on to designing heavy construction machines. From there I moved to autonomous robotics and, after some years with S&S Worldwide, I founded Apollo. I am married, have 3 kids, and live in Northern Utah.
C101: Tell us about Apollo Engineering: how did the company get started and what services do you provide?
Apollo had its beginnings in 2014 as my personal side business. I originally took on small design projects for local businesses while continuing to work full time for S&S Worldwide. In 2015 I had an opportunity which guaranteed enough work to allow me to run Apollo full-time for 6 months. This was the break I needed. I resigned from S&S, converted a room in my house to a permanent office, and stepped into the dark.
In the beginning, I assumed that I would go solo for a while, and eventually grow my team. Within 2 months, I hired an intern to handle drawing creation and some design work. Within 2 more months, I hired an engineer. By June 2017, I added 2 more engineers to the team, and in March 2018, I hired a Design Engineer. Apollo is a full service mechanical engineering firm specializing in amusement rides, show equipment and machine design. By “full service” I mean that we design, engineer, reverse engineer, and produce the full package of design docs for manufacture. We have established a network of other related engineering/design disciplines including structural and controls. This allows us to take on and complete more complex projects. We thrive on challenges and enjoy the opportunity to create/find innovative ways to analyze and solve complex engineering problems.
C101: That’s a fascinating story how you branched out on your own. Are there any projects Apollo Engineering has worked on that our readers might be familiar with (that you’re allowed to discuss)?
Most of our projects are protected by NDA which unfortunately includes the identity of the end customer or park. For these clients we have designed and engineered lift systems, ride vehicles, vehicle theming components including seats, automated show set pieces, etc. We participate either as a portion of a larger team, or by providing complete design and engineering packages. We provide advice on scope and participate in determining project cost. Apollo has the tools and resources to help our clients wherever and whenever needed.
Beyond the projects protected by NDA, we completed a project to redesign the summer wheeled bobsled vehicles for the Utah Olympic Park, we are in the process of upgrading the Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, CO, and we are currently working on a show set piece for a client in the TV entertainment industry.
C101: Can you please tell us more about the Bobsled Project at Utah Olympic Park?
The bobsled track at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) is the very same used during the 2002 Winter Olympics. The track is a concrete structure with a rough surface and regular expansion joints representing gaps of up to 4”. Originally, sleds were designed to utilize the track during the summer months. The design did little to mitigate the rough surface and regular expansion gaps leading to an unpleasant ride experience. UOP attempted to correct this rough ride issue, and eventually enlisted the help of S&S Worldwide. A new undercarriage was designed for prototype which succeeded in significantly smoothing the ride. Through S&S, UOP contracted with Apollo to expand their prototype to a more production ready version. We designed new components, 3D scanned the fiberglass components, performed Finite Element Simulations (FEA), and redesigned certain areas to make the design more cohesive and structurally sound.
C101: I saw that track in person in 2011 and was surprised at how much elevation change there was in the course, something that doesn’t really come through when you’re watching the Winter Olympics on TV. What about the Giant Canyon Swing at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park?
The Giant Canyon Swing is a ride situated at the edge of a cliff and is one of the primary attractions of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Apollo was contracted to provide engineering oversight and design services for a small revitalization and refurbishment of this iconic ride. It is one of the best rides I have ever experienced. Depending on which side you are on, you either face the cliff and feel like you are being pushed off forward, or you face away from the cliff and feel like you are being pulled off backwards only to end up looking down at the valley 1300 feet below.
C101: Looks like an incredible ride experience. What makes projects in the amusement industry field different than other fields (like aerospace, automotive, etc.)?
The amusement ride industry has many similarities to the aerospace and automotive industries. All three provide transportation for human beings, making safety a top concern. Also, all three are sensitive to the vehicle weight, as this directly impacts initial cost and cost to operate. Where amusement stands apart is in the operating environment and associated design constraints. Amusement structures are attached to the ground, making location critical to design. This also makes them highly susceptible to standing water and associated corrosion, as well as storms and natural disasters. In vehicle design, keeping passengers contained is another design difficulty. This is not just from accidental exit or equipment failure, but from deliberate attempts to exit the ride while the ride is in motion.
Amusement rides are highly visible, and injuries related to ride failure do further damage not only to the associated park or manufacturer, but to the industry as a whole. For this reason, the amusement community makes special effort to promote safety from design and engineering, to operations and maintenance. ASTM F24, which covers amusement rides, is one of the most proactive communities I have ever been associated with.
C101: What tools or software do you use to help meet your customer’s needs?
At Apollo we use SolidWorks as our primary CAD tool with PTC Creo as a supplement. We use ANSYS as our primary Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tool (used for stress/strain analysis). We use Scilab and Mathcad when custom programming is needed to fulfill a client requirement or when we need to characterize a ride determine how it is loaded. We have a 3D scanner which we use for reverse engineering and we regularly use accelerometers to characterize ride accelerations.
C101: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the field of engineering or the amusement industry?
My advice, which is the same advice I always provide when asked this question, is get as much real-world experience as possible. If engineering is your route, find internships that allow you to practice what you learn in school. There is nothing more frustrating when hiring than resumes showing a degree with zero work experience. This should be your primary goal in school. You should continually ask yourself, “How can I get the most experience in amusement ride design, manufacture, control, and evaluation?” Finally, never underestimate the value of the “blue collar” worker. They have a wealth of experience and insight that an engineer will never have the chance to acquire on his own. Give them the respect they deserve. Get their back and they will help set you apart from the group as the more valued engineer/designer.
Thanks again to Josh for taking the time to answer our questions! I think he provided some great insight in the amusement industry and gave some great tips for all the future engineers out there.