Disney Imagineering impacts so many different people around the world. Living here in Florida, so close to Disney World, is a great opportunity to experience the Imagineering that happens every day. Every once in a while, students at Florida Tech get the opportunity to visit several places around Florida including Disney and Universal Studios.
Each semester, the Office of Student Activites offers a variety of opportunities for students to visit local theme parks and tourist locations. Each trip typically includes transportation to and from the park, a meal voucher for a meal of your choice and a park pass for $40. I’ve signed up for several years to attend several trips. It’s an incredible discount, and I have yet to be disappointed by any of their destinations. My favorite part about this trip is seeing my engineering background at work. If you don’t make the sign up for those sheets, or the dates for these trips don’t work for you, you can always use your Florida Tech student discount to purchase park tickets to Disney specifically through Disney College Days.
This month there was a Disney trip offered, but I ended up going on the College Days tickets. I chose to go to Epcot. Epcot not only features a large amount of cultural exposure, but it also provides an insight into the engineering world. There are elements of sustainability at work inside the park, attractions that display energy conservation methods, space exploration rides and even car design. Celebrities like Ellen Degenerous and Bill Nye the Science Guy discuss different facts about energy and energy conservation in a jeopardy themed park ride. Living with the Land offers a way off showing agricultural progression. Mission: Space is made in two level of intensities to simulate rocket launches and provide guests with the full experience. The most recently renewed ride is Test Track, which is sponsored by Chevrolet.
Test Track is a great example of Imagineering that includes STEM outreach. The hallway to the ride is filled with engineering ideas about cars, motors and sustainability. This area teaches guests about the four components chosen to design a car: power, efficiency, responsiveness and performance. After guests have finished going thorough the educational section, it’s their turn to design a car. Epcot’s test track allows each group of riders to choose a car design and modify it. While designing the car, the riders are able to see how each element affects each other. For example, by increasing power, the efficiency of the vehicle is decreased.
The actual ride takes the riders and pretends that they are crash dummies. Without actually slamming the vehicle into a wall, the riders are subjected to a roller-coaster of driving elements like snow and aerodynamics. At the end of the ride, the riders can see how well their car performed, drive their car around, create new cars and even see the current models that Chevrolet has produced.
Why is this so exciting? Well, not many people will go into that ride and think, “I wonder how they built that ride,” or “Why did they structure that ride the way that they did?” Test Track is a ride that brings engineering and imagination to the park guests. Not everyone will fully understand what it takes to build a roller coaster and not every child will want to know it. But, for the short time that they are in Test Track, they will get to learn the basic principles of engineering, experience what Imagineers do everyday and even see some of the products that have come out of engineering.