Miami students plan ride, compete in Disney ‘Imagineers’ design contest

Walt Disney Company took four University of Miami students on a ride this summer: an all-expense paid trip to California to work with an elite team of “Imagineers,” or Disney’s creative-engineering minds, on a prospective theme park attraction.

Since 1992, Disney has selected teams of students from around the world to participate in the Imagi-Nations contest, an annual competition which asks students to design and pitch ideas for new theme park attractions.

The four UM finalists were chosen among students from five countries to be one of 11 finalist teams in the contest. Finalists Lesley Wheatley, Eric Suarez, Michael Jenkins and Frank Stevens worked in Glendale, Calif., from July 16 to 27 to tweak their entry and present it to a panel of judges.

The UM team’s brainchild, “Kingdom Earth,” is a state-of-the-art theater that uses a movie with animated characters to educate viewers on how humans impact the environment. Technology such as hydraulics and holographic projections create an “activated theater” to enhance the audiences’ experience of the attraction.

The finalists decided to place the theater in Epcot because of its environmental concept.

“Disney gives this platform for students to express their ideas and have people actually listen to them,” Stevens said. “One of the really amazing things about it is that you get to have your ideas taken seriously by professionals in the field. It’s a unique opportunity, to say the least.”

Disney’s Imagineers have a diverse group of skills. Employees specializing in more than 140 disciplines, including sound technology, landscape design and model making work together to brainstorm new theme park attractions.

Alli Braswell, manager of diversity and inclusion, worked with creativity aspects of the contest.

“The goal here is to bring not only people with different nationalities but people from different backgrounds, disabilities and cultures to represent the real world,” Braswell said.

Although the “Kingdom Earth” design didn’t win the contest, Stevens said that just being a finalist was a confidence-building experience.

“The best part was the personal sense of self-confidence that it gave you,” Stevens said.

“That sort of self affirmation that, ‘Yeah, I did something, people enjoyed it and there are other students out there and working in the same way.’ ”

Kelly Herson may be contacted at

October 29, 2007


The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami

Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • Error

Duke Johnson, the all-time leading rusher in Miami Hurricanes history, was one of a dozen members of ...

The Miami Hurricanes, still waiting for a starting quarterback to be named, are in the top 25 again. ...

Happy first day of school for everyone out there, including the University of Miami students. We jus ...

With the University of Miami season opener closing in, the next starting quarterback has yet to be n ...

The second fall scrimmage, closed to the media and public, is over. University of Miami coach Mark R ...

UM’s new chief academic officer holds some 40 patents, and in 2017 was inducted into the National Ac ...

University of Miami students and researchers are blogging during a month-long expedition in the Gulf ...

María de Lourdes Dieck-Assad, a world-renowned economist and former ambassador, fills a new role for ...

Through the U Dreamers Grant, DACA students find essential support as they pursue their college degr ...

UM students talk about their internships up north in a city that never sleeps. ...

RSS Error: A feed could not be found at A feed with an invalid mime type may fall victim to this error, or SimplePie was unable to auto-discover it.. Use force_feed() if you are certain this URL is a real feed.

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.