Three Baylor Students’ Dreams Come True as Finalists in the 2018 Disney Imaginations Competition

February 7, 2018

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275
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WACO, Texas (Feb. 7, 2018) – Have you ever wondered how places like Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Typhoon Lagoon came to be? From a generation of Disney Imagineers, that’s where.

A team of three students from Baylor University were among six finalists from across the country who had the opportunity to experience firsthand the process of imagining, designing and bringing to life Disney theme parks.

Erin Saylor, a senior electrical and computer engineering major from League City, Texas; Josh Martin, a sophomore graphic design major from Coppell, Texas; and Andrea De Oliveira, a senior mechanical engineering major from Katy, Texas, were selected to compete in the Disney 2018 Imaginations Design Competition for their underwater-themed idea, “Lion City.” They presented their idea along with the other finalists on Jan. 22-26 in Glendale, California.

“We came up with our idea after receiving the prompt, brainstorming and coming together to realize we all had similar ideas about what we wanted to do,” Martin said. “We dreamed of an abandoned underwater city that was desolate but could be brought back to life and enjoyed once again. After researching various underwater cities, we stumbled across Shicheng, China, and realized it was a perfect fit.”

The Imaginations design competition began in 1991 and was started by former Disney Legend and Imagineering executive, Marty Sklar. The Walt Disney Imagineering team is the creative force behind Walt Disney Parks. This team dreams up, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, cruise ships, real estate developments and regional entertainment venues worldwide. This competition seeks to find and cultivate the next generation of Imagineers.

“My dream job is to be an Imagineer and sometimes it's a daunting dream because there isn't a traditional path to reach that goal, unlike other professions,” De Oliveira said. “Being a finalist gives me hope that one day I will be able to make that dream a reality.”

This year’s competition challenge was to find an abandoned “ghost town” from anywhere in the world and revitalize it. The Baylor team’s design immerses guests into the Chinese Qing and Ming dynasties in the vast underwater Lion City. The city will offer interactive experiences, rides, hotels and more.

According to the Imaginations website, the projects are judged on mastery of skills and talents, guest experience, diversity and market perspective, uniqueness, adherence to project challenge and team collaboration.

“It is an incredible honor to be selected as a finalist,” Saylor said. “Our group worked really hard on our project and all of that hard work has paid off. I am extremely proud of our group for making it this far in the competition, and I hope that others from Baylor will be inspired to compete as well.”

The judges also consider a team’s ability to recognize the cultural nuances of the selected location, expand the boundaries of what currently exists and evaluate its business implications and impact on the community.

All three team members express gratitude towards Baylor’s Theme Park and Engineering Design club for encouraging and enabling them to compete. This organization encourages participants to develop creative thinking, teamwork, communication and friendships. The club also creates professional, educational and networking opportunities for students through exposure to the industry and participation in activities.

“I grew up watching Disney movies and visiting Disney World as often as I could and absolutely loving it,” De Oliveira said. “I also have a love for science and a curiosity for how things work. As I grew up and learned that I could combine both of those passions by working for Disney as an Imagineer, I felt as if I had found my calling. The Baylor Theme Park Engineering and Design organization told me about the competition and I knew I had to compete.”

Finalists had the opportunity to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind-the-scenes to see how Disney magic is created and interview for paid internships during their visit to Walt Disney Imagineering in California. Although the Baylor team did not win the competition, they described the Disney Imagineering experience as “once in a lifetime.”

“It is definitely a week that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Saylor said. “I am also so thankful to all of the people who worked hard to make our week at Disney an amazing experience.”

by Brooke Battersby, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.