Engineering students’ Disney dream comes true

Three graduates from the class of 2015 landed internships with Walt Disney Imagineering for their creative vision during the Disney Imaginations contest.

Students at Imaginations finals

There's no place on earth quite like Disney Land when it comes to creating magic. Famously known for its detail-oriented approach to creating experiences, today the Disney magic relies on a team of Imagineers who combine creative flair with technical expertise to bring Disney's beloved stories to life.

Three College of Engineering graduates joined Walt Disney Imagineering as interns this past summer after being named finalists in the rigorous Disney Imaginations contest.

"I am incredibly excited to be working with Imagineering, it's an opportunity I've always wanted," said Gabrielle Bachand, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in chemical engineering and a minor in art.

"I was amazed to learn how much Imagineering blends art and science; both areas are not only equally valued but are intertwined. Being an engineer and an artist, this environment means the world to me."

Students re-imagine Chicago subway system for competition

Bachand teamed up with fellow chemical engineering graduate Nolan Nicholson and mechanical engineering graduate Andrew McNeilly to compete in the Disney Imaginations contest during their senior year at the University. The content challenged student teams to design a Disney-like experience for a transportation system within a major city. The experience needed to include stations and vehicles that reflected the diversity of the city as well as being accessible, energy-friendly and, of course, fun.

"This is a great example of the focus of our program to produce globally competitive graduates who are technically outstanding but also have a strong broader education and are engaging," said Manos Maragakis, dean of engineering.

The Nevada team's project was based in Chicago's subways, a city with a longstanding reputation as a forerunner in transportation innovation. The project, titled Line 55, is subway line featuring four adventure-filled routes to various themed locations throughout the city. Travelers would be move through classic literature plots including a sci-fi space mission, a far-away jungle expedition, a deep ocean dive and a historic Chicago adventure with corresponding themed destinations within the downtown area.

"The project is a cool combination of a lot of things we all like: it's got application of engineering design and creativity to a problem outside what we're used to, it involved making a lot of hands-on designs and concept art, and it's tied in with people and themes from Disney," Nicholson said. "We're all huge fans - especially, speaking for myself - of the work they do at Imagineering."

Their project put the team among the top six finalists, and they traveled to Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in Glendale, Calif., along with the other finalists, for an all-expense-paid trip from Jan. 26 to 30 to present their projects to Imagineering executives and take part in an awards ceremony. They also had the chance to interview for internships, which all three students received.

Disney internships a "dream come true"

Bachand and Nicholson completed their internships at Walt Disney Imagineering Research and Development in Glendale. Nicholson worked on materials chemistry for future projects in the parks as an Advanced Development intern, and Bachand was part of the Sustainability team where she contributed to researching and implementing more lasting, environmentally-conscience solutions for the company.

"I am working for the Sustainable Design and Engineering Team in Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development," said Bachand. "I am helping to develop tools that would connect designers with environmentally conscious options for their projects. I also research new technologies and materials that have low impacts on the environment and human health for use throughout the Disney Company."

McNeilly, a mechanical engineering graduate, accepted a position at Creative Development Project Service Management at Walt Disney World in Orlando. He will be developing project management for all four Walt Disney World parks and the two water parks.

"I cannot believe that I'll be starting my Disney career straight out of the University," McNeilly said. "It's more than just a dream come true; I have wanted to be an Imagineer since high school.