Baylor finalists compete in Disney Imagineer competition

Baylor University teammates Andrea DeOliveira, Erin Saylor and Josh Martin are finalists in the 27th Imaginations Design Competition. Photo Courtesy of Disney

By Reagan Ebb | Staff Writer

A group of three Baylor students was one of six teams selected as finalists in the 27th annual Walt Disney Imaginations design competition.

Walt Disney Imagineering executive and Disney Legend Marty Sklar created the competition in 1991 to develop students in creative careers for potential employment with Imagineering in the future. The prompt for the challenge changes ever year, and this year teams were instructed to bring an abandoned town back to life through design.

All finalists were flown to Walt Disney Imagineering’s headquarters from Jan. 22-26 in Glendale, Calif. for a five-day, all-expenses-paid trip. During the trip, finalists met and worked with current Imagineers, interviewed for internships and presented their ideas to a panel of Imagineering executives for awards.

Baylor’s team consisted of Katy senior Andrea De Oliveira, League City senior Erin Saylor and Coppell junior Josh Martin. Their project was titled “Lion City,” which is based on the thousand-year-old Chinese city Shi Cheng.

Shi Cheng, which means Lion City in Mandarin, was a wealthy, lively city during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The city was purposely flooded in 1959 to create a reservoir and a hydroelectric dam, which helps power neighboring cities today. In 2001, a Chinese government exploration found that most of the city’s architecture remained intact, despite the flooding.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have been able to go and present our ideas,” Martin said.

In their design, people enter the city through HydroGliders, a device that the team designed similar to a helicopter combined with submarine, which gives visitors an overview of the original city. Once the guests have entered the city, they have several options to explore.

“Within the city we had multiple different activities, including scuba diving through the ruins, making a spirit animal that can follow you around the park and be your guide and a roller coaster,” Saylor said.

The main attraction, called Dragon Dynasty, is a dragon-themed, dual-tracked roller coaster where the two tracks race to gain control of the city.

Erin Saylor, an electrical and computer engineering major, was in charge of creating the digital 3-D models of the city and the HydroGlider.

“We really wanted to do an underwater city,” Saylor said. “We started to research real cities that were currently underwater. It allowed us to really keep the culture intact.”

Andrea De Oliveira, a mechanical engineering major, created an interactive simulation of the roller coaster while also helping develop the story. Oliveira said participating in Imaginations was an incredible experience both academically and socially.

“I really loved it,” she said. “We got to go to Disney. Mainly beyond interviewing and presenting our ideas, we got to learn about the different branches of engineering.”

Josh Martin, a studio art and graphic design major, was responsible for all the artistic design of the project. Martin said his experience in Glendale was amazing. He said Baylor students should look for creative outlets, such as the Baylor Theme Park Engineering & Design club that fielded the Imaginations team.

Martin said his main goal was to focus his artwork on the Chinese culture and styles that thrived when the city was populated. He chose styles that reflected Shi Cheng traditions to incorporate the history of the city while still revitalizing it in a new way.

“Overall the competition was, I would say, the best week of my life, and we would like to share that with anyone else who has a dream to be an Imagineer,” Martin said.