University of Nevada, Reno students reach Disney Imaginations contest finals

College of Engineering team designs innovative entertainment transportation experience

Disney Team Reaction

Disney Imagineering contest team members from the University of Nevada, Reno received the news via video conference last week that they had made the finals. They are one of six teams to beat out nearly 200 other teams from around the country in the annual contest.

University of Nevada, Reno students reach Disney Imaginations contest finals

College of Engineering team designs innovative entertainment transportation experience

Disney Imagineering contest team members from the University of Nevada, Reno received the news via video conference last week that they had made the finals. They are one of six teams to beat out nearly 200 other teams from around the country in the annual contest.

Disney Team Reaction

Disney Imagineering contest team members from the University of Nevada, Reno received the news via video conference last week that they had made the finals. They are one of six teams to beat out nearly 200 other teams from around the country in the annual contest.

A student team from the University of Nevada, Reno has been selected as one of the top six finalists by Walt Disney Imagineering, the design and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in its 24th Imaginations competition. Imaginations is a design competition created and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of diverse Imagineers.

The student team, Gabby Bachand, a chemical engineering major and art minor; Andrew McNeilly, a mechanical engineering major; and Nolan Nicholson, a chemical engineering major and National Merit Scholar, competed with almost 200 other teams from around the country to get to the finals.  

Team Reaction

Disney Team Reaction

Disney Imagineering contest team members from the University of Nevada, Reno received the news via video conference last week that they had made the finals. They are one of six teams to beat out nearly 200 other teams from around the country in the annual contest. Imaginations is a design competition created and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of diverse Imagineers. From left to right: Engineering students Gabby Bachand, Andrew McNeilly and Nolan Nicholson.

"Upholding the Disney image requires professionalism, brilliance, dedication, passion and innovation with a side of magic," Candice Bauer, faculty advisor and lecturer in the College of Engineering, said. "When the team approached me to be their advisor for the Walt Disney Imaginations competition, I saw pixie dust fall from the sky because I knew there was something magical about this team. The judges from Walt Disney Imagineering agree."  

For this year's Imaginations design competition, students from American universities and colleges were given the following challenge: take what Disney does best today - from its world-class theme parks, resorts, cruise ships and other entertainment venues that are globally highly popular with families - and apply it to transportation within a major city. The team's Disney transportation experience would include stations/stops and vehicle designs that reflect the diversity of the city, and are accessible, energy-friendly and fun.  

The Nevada team created a hypothetical project based in Chicago's subways. The team picked Chicago because of its longstanding reputation as a forerunner in transportation innovation. The project, titled Line 55, is an entertainment underground transportation system featuring four distinct, adventure-filled routes to various themed locations throughout the city. Guests would be able to "travel" into 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.  

"You should be very proud to have come this far, it speaks to the talents and skills that you've showcased," Soledad Boyle, internship coordinator for Walt Disney Imagineering, said when she and a team of Disney Imagineers surprised the students with the announcement this week.  

The team will travel to the 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. Finalists also have an opportunity during their visit to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind the scenes where Disney magic is created and interview for paid internships.  

"As an educator, there is nothing else that makes me cry with joy more than seeing my students work hard to make their dreams come true...they are going to Disneyland," Bauer said. "Nevada engineering students are making a world of difference, and the world is taking notice of our special kind of magic."  

"We are very proud of our student team making it to the finals of the Disney Imaginations contest," Manos Maragakis, dean of the University's College of Engineering, said. "The College of Engineering is focused on national competitiveness and it is particularly rewarding when this strategic goal is exemplified by our students, especially as a project outside of regular courses. Congratulations to all."  

The Imaginations contest is one of the creative ways that Imagineering uses to search for the next generation of talented theme park designers. The top-three placed teams will be awarded cash prizes, with the first place team receiving $3,000. An additional $1,000 grant will be awarded to the first place team, to be equally divided among its sponsoring partners.  

This year's six teams of finalists represent Art Center College of Design, Drexel University, Ringling College of Art + Design, San Jose State University, Texas Tech University and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Anyone can join the conversation online and use the hashtag #2015DisneyImaginations when posting to social media.

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