I grew up near Portsmouth and since I was 12 have loved rollercoasters. Now I work as a Creative Project Director at my own theme park consultancy, creating rides, attractions and rollercoasters for theme parks.
What is your current role?
I work as a Creative Project Director at my own theme park consultancy (Firefly Creations), creating rides, attractions and rollercoasters for theme parks.
What projects have you worked on?
I worked on bridge design and railways before finding a job at a theme park and zoo. In my job at Chessington World of Adventures I managed projects from start to finish, from design, to construction and testing before opening to guests. I would describe my job like being a conductor of an orchestra – making sure all the parts come together for a great experience.
I have worked on water rides, animatronics and walk-through attractions with custom smells and special effects. I get to learn something new every day. Every ride and attraction should be new and exciting, so I help develop new ways to keep the fun going. I am excited about how Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will shape theme park rides in the future.
What made you want to design rollercoasters?
I grew up near Portsmouth and since I was 12 have loved rollercoasters. My favourite rollercoaster is Nemesis at Alton Towers Resort. I love how the scenery creates near misses to make an adrenaline filled experience for those on the ride. When I was at school, I went to a lecture about rollercoaster design and realised that engineering would let me design the rides I loved.
- Creative project director at Firefly Creations co-founded by Michelle
- Favourite part of engineering
- I get to learn something new every day.
- Qualification path
- GCSEs, A levels, Degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Surrey.
Your biggest challenge so far?
My biggest engineering challenge so far was building a 50-foot tiger head over a log flume ride, Tiger Rock. The ride drops over a waterfall that is surrounded by tiger enclosures, so I had to include calculations in the design for how far tigers could jump! I find it rewarding that I also get to design new homes for animals as part of my work.
Who do you admire in your field?
I admire John Wardley, the rollercoaster designer for Nemesis and Oblivion at Alton Towers. He has also worked on the video game Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 and was involved in designing the original attractions for Chessington. I have now worked on projects redeveloping some of his creations – making my mark for future adrenaline junkies.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
My favourite thing about my job is seeing the reactions of guests who’ve experienced my creations – if they are smiling, I know that what I have designed is fun and the project has been a success!
"I had to include calculations in the design for how far tigers could jump!"— Michelle Hicks, civil engineer
GCSEs and A levels
Degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Surrey.
Civil engineer at Chessington World of Adventures.
Creative project director and co-founder of Firefly Creations.