Thomas Instrumentation got into the Amusement Park industry because we’re located so close to the Wildwood Boardwalk. Sometime back in the 1980s, we decided to develop safety dispatch and race timers for water slides and go kart tracks. Everyone was behind this project because we all went as families to the boardwalk. While designing, programming, and manufacturing these systems, we always kept in mind the need for high accuracy and reliability.
To market these products, we attended many International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) conventions and sold them to parks all over the USA. In case anyone reading this remembers us, we sold these products under our sister company, Slide Alert Systems. Slide Alert no longer exists, but all these products were manufactured by Thomas Instrumentation personnel.
The following is a brief description of our products:
Dispatchers (Water Slide Safety/Dispatch System)
Slide Alert Systems was one of the early developers of safety systems for water slides. Previously, people would have to trust in the judgment of a slide operator to tell them when the slide was clear and the next person could enter. Often times it is difficult to judge when the slide is clear because of the slide’s shape or a lack of visibility of the end of the slide.
With our system, it no longer mattered if the slide operator could see the bottom of the slide. Our dispatch system relied on a type of proximity sensors placed within the slide itself to tell if a person had completed a run on the slide. A stop light sign at the top of the slide reliably showed both operators and riders when the slide was in use (red) and was clear (green). This system greatly reduced the number of injuries and accidents that occurred on waterpark slides.
Race Timers / Speedsters (Water Slide Race Timers)
With the Safety/Dispatch system, it was a simple matter to add in a race timer for riders. The dispatch system knew when a rider entered the slide and when each rider exited the slide. From these times, a race time could be calculated and displayed at the bottom of the slide. With the Speedster system, sliders could know how fast they were traveling in miles per hour or feet per second. This brought more attention to a lot of the slides because friends could have fun trying to beat each other’s time or even race against themselves.
Grand Prix System (Race Track Safety/Dispatch System)
This system works off essentially the same concept as its water slide counterpart. The point was to provide smaller race tracks with a cost effective dispatch system to reduce problems on the track. On the race track system, we utilized a different type of proximity sensor and changed the stop light display to the more race track traditional starting light system of red, yellow, and green.
Since this is a race track system, the race timer options for water slides are included in the Grand Prix system. Since we know when a kart has started on the track and when it has finished, we can calculate a time for each racer. The output display of the race times can be in an individual run time format or a score board style listing of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on of standings.