Drexel students vying to design Disney-themed transport system

Posted on January 5, 2015


Campfire stories, high-speed trains and out-of-body experiences are all part of Drexel University students’ plan for a Disney-themed transportation system of the future set in Sydney, Australia. The vision is one of six finalists in Disney’s Imaginations design competition.

The students will present their idea to a panel of judges in hopes of taking home a $3,000 first-place prize and the opportunity to intern at Walt Disney Imagineering — the creative design team behind those world-famous theme parks and attractions.

Inspired by their participation in Drexel’s Theme Park Engineering and Design Group, four undergraduate engineering majors entered the contest faced with the theoretical challenge of designing a Disney-themed transportation system for a major city. Their concept, called Woollahra — the Aboriginal word for “meeting ground” — connects four districts in Sydney through the theme of campfire storytelling — a time-honored tradition in the country.

“The main inspiration for the design is this idea of the campfire as the ultimate symbol of storytelling,” said Justin Petronglo, a mechanical engineering major. “Throughout time, people have gathered around the campfire to share their culture and stories of their lives. Woollahra is intended to be an interactive train experience that connects people from all over the city at a central meeting place where they share their own stories.”

Several of the group members entered the Imaginations competition last year, but fell just short of the final six. As finalists this year, the team will travel to Glendale, Calif., to present their design before a panel of Disney judges in much the same way professional Imagineers pitch new ideas for the theme parks.

“We’re excited to get to the finals,” Petronglo said. “We spent a lot of time finding an idea that all of us were passionate about and excited to bring to life. We all wanted to develop an attraction that we would be interested in experiencing ourselves.”

Drexel’s team is up against entries from Texas Tech University; the University of Nevada, Reno; San Jose State University; Ringling College of Art + Design; and the Art Center College of Design.

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