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Disney Sparks Student Imagineers with ImagiNation Contest

Posted by Mark J. Miller on February 20, 2012 10:13 AM

Basketball-mad North Carolina generally goes a bit nuts when March Madness rolls around since it has some serious roundball powerhouses in Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina. But if residents of the Tar Heel State want to get celebrating a little early, the N.C. State Wolfpack is giving them something to howl about.

OK, it might not be basketball, but N.C. State has just won ImagiNations, the annual Disney Imagineering contest for college students who “conceive and propose a new Disney theme park, attraction, restaurant, resort hotel, product or other themed entertainment experience,” according to Disney.

The Disney brand (including attractions, theme parks, cruise ships, the entire Disney experience) is a creative stage sparked by by storytelling. So this year’s competition, for the first time ever, gave students a specific challenge to spark their imaginations: “How would Disney entertain humans living on the moon in the year 3011?”

For the students of N.C. State, that question led to the “an interactive adventure ride encompassing two separate moon parks to communicate the sweeping story of Molly Mouse, Mickey Mouse’s descendant,” according to the Apex Herald.

Coming in behind the Wolfpack was a group from Carnegie Mellon University, who conceived “a nighttime spectacular set in an underground lunar city” entitled Create the Night followed by Utah State University’s Disney Cruiseline: The Oneiro, “a guided tour company that explores the solar system,” Disney reports.

A goal of the competition (whose tagline is "Dream, Design, Diversify") is to nurture and potentially find new talent by reaching out to engineering, math and science students, particularly young women and students of color. Even if they don't pursue jobs at Disney, the process wows a few impressionable young minds and gets them thinking about how they might change the world, as Bruce Vaughn, chief creative officer of Disney Imagineering, recently explained.

The three finalists all get to visit the Imagineering headquarters in Glendale, California, poke around the place, and – aha! – interview for internships. The winners take home $3,000. Second place gets you $1,000, and third puts $500 in your back pocket.

“Walt Disney is one of the greatest companies in the world, and I would love to work for them one day,” N.C. State engineering student Kyle Thompson told the Apex Herald. “At the very least, this experience has opened me up to a world of design that I don’t get to see much of as an engineering student.”

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