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Students create their dream Disney ride

Drexel University students head to Disneyland.

The students display their designs at Disney last week.

©Disney Photo: Gary Krueger

While many aspiring engineers dream of one day working on bridges or buildings, one group of Drexel students have had more magical ambitions.

The four students were one of the teams selected for Disney’s annual Walt Disney Imaginations Design Competition, a program designed to encourage students to pursue careers in creative and technical fields, including the digital arts, engineering and architecture. This year’s students were asked to design a transportation-related experience for a major city.

“A lot of us grew up wanting to create rides and attractions for a living, so the Imaginations competition was a great outlet for that,” says mechanical engineering major John Van Zelst. Along with fellow mechanical engineering student Justin Petronglo and Architectural Engineering students Bader Al Moulah and Ahmad Jamal, Van Zelst traveled to California last week to participate in the weeklong competition.

“I grew up going to Disney with my family,” says Petronglo, “and just seeing the rides and attractions as a kid, I knew that that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up — I wanted to contribute to that.” The Drexel team came up with a plan to create “Woollahra,” a transportation system that connected several districts in Sydney, Australia and incorporated the country’s folklore.

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Creating a story: “We really wanted to hone in on the idea of storytelling, and we kind of used that as a guiding focus,” Van Zelst notes. Al Moulah happened to be visiting a friend in Australia last summer. “I think the most interesting thing about it was the appreciation that they had for the landscape,” he recalls.

Adding funto design: The team worked to create a design for a train system that would run through three districts in Sydney and allow visitors to create stories about their lives throughout their trip. “We tried to think about public transportation and thought, ‘How can we make people appreciate the journey as much as the destination?”

The results: When the results of the Disney competition were announced on Friday, the Drexel team placed third, winning a $500 prize and possible internships at Walt Disney Imagineering, the folks behind the world-famous theme parks and attractions.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

 
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