Students Vying to Design Disney-Themed Urban Transportation System

A group of Drexel students are designing a transportation concept for Sydney, Australia as part of Disney's Imaginations contest.

A group of undergraduate engineering students are among the finalists for Disney's Imaginations contest. Their goal is to create the concept for a Disney-themed transportation system for a major city.

Campfire stories, high-speed trains and out-of-body experiences are all part of Drexel University students’ plan for a Disney-themed transportation system of the future set in Sydney, Australia. This vision is one of six finalists in Disney’s Imaginations design competition. The students will present their idea to a panel of judges in hopes of taking home a $3,000 first-place prize and the opportunity to intern at Walt Disney Imagineering –the creative design team behind those world-famous theme parks and attractions.

Inspired by their participation in Drexel’s Theme Park Engineering and Design Group, undergraduate engineering majors Justin Petronglo, John VanZelst, Bader Al Moulah and Ahmad Jamal entered the contest faced with the theoretical challenge of designing a Disney-themed transportation system for a major city. Their concept, called Woollahra —the Aboriginal word for “meeting ground”— connects four districts in Sydney, Australia through the theme of campfire storytelling —a time-honored tradition in the country.

 “The main inspiration for the design is this idea of the campfire as the ultimate symbol of storytelling,” said Petronglo, a mechanical engineering major. “Throughout time, people have gathered around the campfire to share their culture and stories of their lives. Woollahra is intended to be an interactive train experience that connects people from all over the city at a central meeting place where they share their own stories.”

Several of the group members entered the Imaginations competition last year, but fell just short of the final six. As finalists this year, the team will travel to Glendale, California to present their design before a panel of Disney judges in much the same way professional Imagineers pitch new ideas for the theme parks.

“We’re excited to get to the finals,” Petronglo said. “We spent a lot of time finding an idea that all of us were passionate about and excited to bring to life. We all wanted to develop an attraction that we would be interested in experiencing ourselves.”

In addition to the monetary prize, winners will also be considered for internships at Walt Disney Imagineering —a coveted position for aspiring engineers and designers. Drexel’s team is up against entries from Texas Tech University; the University of Nevada, Reno; San Jose State University; Ringling College of Art + Design; and the Art Center College of Design.

The final judging will take place from Jan. 26-30. Walt Disney Imagineering started the Imaginations competition in 1992 with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of diverse Imagineers. The projects and concepts presented are not necessarily intended to be built by Disney, but they are a way for the entrants to demonstrate their skills and creative abilities. The program has also grown to include an Imaginations competition sponsored by the Hong Kong Disneyland® Resort.

 For more information about the Imaginations competition visit: For media inquiries about Walt Disney Imagineering and the Imaginations competition contact Frank Reifsnyder, Walt Disney Imagineering, 818.544.2142 or Tim Choy and Peter Goldman at Davidson & Choy Publicity, 323.954.7510.