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Olin College Student Team Finalists in Disney Imagineering Contest

Eric Miller, Miranda McMillen and Benjamin Ziemann have been named finalists in the 28th Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition.

Imaginations is a design competition where teams were challenged to create a hypothetical experience that explores a Natural or Ancient Wonder of the World. In all six college teams have been named finalists for this year’s competition.

The Olin team’s entry is called Kiiġuyaruq, which means “the Northern lights are shining” in native Alaskan dialect. The Kiiġuyaruq Express is a five-day wintertime train journey starting in Anchorage and extending all the way north to some of the most inaccessible and secluded regions in the world. On each day of the journey, the train stops at the site of a historical event or culture, and guests disembark into a lovingly recreated vision of the past where they can use their personal compasses to act as agents of the Northern Lights, assisting the people they meet with various problems, while collecting memories to contribute back into the Northern Lights.

“We have been working on the project since the beginning of the school year, and while the details of the project and presentation have changed over time, the overarching story of a train ride across Alaska has remained constant throughout,” said Miller.

The entries were judged on several categories including the teams’ mastery of skills and talents, guest experience, diversity and market perspective, uniqueness, adherence to project challenge, and team collaboration. The teams’ ability to tell a compelling and engaging story was also important.

The contest encouraged students to focus on places that are difficult to enjoy either because they are remote, inhospitable, or no longer exist. Students created experiences that explore and share these natural wonders safely for a wide range of guests, at or near the original presumed location. The designers had to consider how guests could have a communal and family friendly experience as a group; how traditional methodologies and advanced technology solutions would allow the experiences to be shared; and they had to be mindful to honor the environment, history, codes and local ordinances. The projects could not include: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality or Mixed Reality based solutions.

"This outstanding team's work demonstrates some of the very best qualities of Olin students; the ability to fuse art, design, technology and storytelling, all into a compelling beautiful ideas," said Dave Barrett, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Olin College. 

Teams were also encouraged to tap into the expertise of everyone on their cross- disciplinary team in supporting their idea.

“Going into the contest, we knew that most of the other teams would be composed of artists and designers, so we wanted to find ways to make our engineering skills stand out.,” said Miller.

The Olin students will travel to California in February to present their final concepts to a team of Imagineering executives.