2017 Imaginations Winners

University Students Take Honors for Innovation and Creativity in Walt Disney Imagineering’s 26th Imaginations Design Competition

January 27, 2017 | Glendale, CA – The winners of Walt Disney Imagineering’s 26th Imaginations design competition were announced today during an awards luncheon at Walt Disney Imagineering headquarters in Glendale, California. Imaginations is a unique design competition created and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering, the design and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of Disney Imagineers. Started in 1991, the program showcases the innovation, creativity and collaboration for which Disney is well known.

Finalists for the 2017 Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition were given an exciting and unique challenge: to apply the same design principles used in creating Disney’s famous theme parks, resorts and immersive experience to develop new outdoor spaces within their own college or university that could address the diverse needs of students, faculty and visitors while also providing a respite from the stresses of everyday life. wdi-imaginations-logo_full-color

First place was awarded to Joshua Kurnia, Cristina Diaz and Alexander Doppenberg from Iowa State University for “Hourglass,” which utilizes the concept of an hourglass turned on its side, allowing guests to pause time and find a respite from everyday stresses. Underground geothermal pods integrate with nature map projection and heated benches to allow visitors to rejuvenate themselves, while enjoying the natural beauty of the four seasons.

Second place was awarded to Erin Rice, Madeline Zupan, Mark Davidson and Jessica Klouda from The University of Notre Dame for “Spirit of the Isle,” a unique project allowing visitors, friends, and students to momentarily enter into a stress-free world full of magical fun. Guests enter a manmade island from behind a waterfall and experience an engaging amphitheater unfolding below. Curious guests can choose to explore sweeping terraces or venture into a cave beneath the falls, which can double as an ice-skating rink in the winter. For others seeking solitude, individual pods provide a place for quiet contemplation or creativity with hands-on interactive displays.

Third place was awarded to Sarah Miholer of Carnegie Mellon University and Casey Liptak and Erin Socha of Miami University for “Niihka: A New Tradition,” which creates an outdoor space that celebrates the Myaamiaki Indian culture. The tribe once inhabited the land on which Miami University was founded. This project provides an environment for guests to feel close to nature, through architecture and interior design. A multi-leveled space, the park provides a number of diverse atmospheres, from structured to more relaxed, integrating technology and an innovative Smart Roof concept to remind the community of its Native American roots.

Twenty-one students from six teams were finalists in Walt Disney Imagineering’s 26th Imaginations design competition out of more than 330 qualified project submissions. In addition to the three top-placed teams, the other finalist teams came from Howard University, Savannah College of Art and Design and University of California, San Diego. The top placed team is awarded a cash prize, and an additional $1,000 grant is awarded to its sponsoring university.

The six teams of finalists visited Walt Disney Imagineering’s main campus in Glendale, Calif., from January 23 to 27 to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind the scenes where Disney magic is created, and interview for paid internships during their visit.

A panel of Imagineering judges applied the same criteria to the entries as they would to their own work, including the team’s ability to collaborate across different disciplines and backgrounds; the mastery of their individual skills; whether the project provides an engaging guest experience; the ability to tell a compelling and engaging story; and knowledge and passion for the Disney brand and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Throughout the years, hundreds of students from universities all across the United States have participated in this competition and had the opportunity to present their projects to Imagineering executives. Some of them have gone on to become interns or full-time Imagineers, thus fulfilling their dreams of working on a variety of new projects for Disney theme parks and resorts around the world.

Imaginations opens up the opportunity for students to showcase their skills and talents to Imagineering through a multi-disciplined project, combining engineering, innovation and technical skill with artistry and immersive storytelling. Provided with a project challenge, students and recent graduates work in teams to deliver a concept similar to how Imagineers develop their blue sky projects. In a matter of weeks, teams have to leverage various artistic, technical and communication skills to prepare a submission that will appeal to judges whose backgrounds include a diverse number of creative and technical disciplines.

Walt Disney Imagineering
Walt Disney Imagineering is the unique, creative force behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts that dreams up, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, attractions, cruise ships, real estate developments, and regional entertainment venues worldwide. Imagineering’s unique strength comes from the dynamic global team of creative and technical professionals building on the Disney legacy of storytelling to pioneer new forms of entertainment through technical innovation and creativity.

Frank Reifsnyder – Walt Disney Imagineering, (818) 544-2142
Tim Choy, Peter Goldman – Davidson & Choy Publicity, (323) 954-7510

The projects and concepts presented are not necessarily intended to be built by Disney – they are a way for the entrants to demonstrate their skills and creative abilities. In consideration for the opportunities provided by the Imaginations Design Competition, submissions become the sole property of Walt Disney Imagineering and Walt Disney Imagineering retains all rights to use and/or display the submissions and the materials contained in them.