Engineering Magic

Valpo Engineers Participate in Inspiring Creativity Training at Disney Institute


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Valpo Electrical Engineering Student Nick Maassel
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Over five days in October, twenty-one Valparaiso University College of Engineering students attended workshops and tours with the Disney Institute at Walt Disney World in Florida. The program included a full day behind-the-scenes tour at four of the Walt Disney World theme parks, a workshop on inspiring creativity and innovation, and a variety of engineering problem-solving tasks. The program is part of a College of Engineering course on innovation, creativity, and problem solving.

The twenty-one engineering students participated in the five-day Disney Institute Program as part of their electrical engineering class on inspiring innovation. After flying to Orlando and checking into their hotel, the students began the program by going on an eight-hour behind-the-scenes tour with the Disney Institute at all four of the major Walt Disney World theme parks (Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and the Magic Kingdom). The students saw how some of the major attractions were designed and operated. They also had the opportunity to visit the central shops facility, where the animatronics and equipment of the current and future rides and shows are developed. The tour concluded with a walk through of the famed utilidoors that lie under the Magic Kingdom theme park.

Next, the students participated in two workshops led by the Disney Institute on inspiring creativity. The workshops were interactive in nature and included lectures, small team projects, and a field trip through the park. The program concluded with two engineering scavenger hunts through the Epcot and the Magic Kingdom theme parks. These activities challenged the students to experience the parks through the eyes of an engineer.

Throughout the program, the students were introduced to many of the best-practices used by engineers at Walt Disney World and across other industries. They learned a number of practical techniques related to brainstorming and problem solving that they can use immediately in their engineering classes. The students learned about the two mantras of Walt Disney World - authenticity and attention to detail - while experiencing the level of detail that they will have to maintain in their engineering projects as they prepare for their careers. Finally, the students had the opportunity to put some of their engineering lessons to work as they explored the parks like engineers in their scavenger hunts. Questions such as, "How many light bulbs are there in the Magic Kingdom theme park, and how much power do they consume?" required the students to consider the real-world engineering challenges of grand-scale projects.

"Our students received a truly novel, undergraduate engineering experience," said Assistant Professor Mark Budnik. "By giving our students the chance to work with the Disney Institute, they had a unique opportunity to continue developing and honing the soft skills that are so sought after by the engineering industry."

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Matt LaRue, a senior in electrical engineering agreed. "The lessons that I learned about creativity, vision, and dedication will be especially valuable to me as I continue on to graduate school and then a leadership role in industry."

Electrical engineering junior, Ava Norberg summarized a final sentiment that was felt by the entire group of students: "It’s amazing to think about how one man, Walt Disney, with one idea can create such a big and great thing. It inspires me to think about how if he could impact so many people, then so can I."