Carnegie Mellon University students used their imaginations to create an experience truly worthy of Disneyland.

Their idea earned them the top prize in Walt Disney Imagineering's "Imaginations" competition.

Teams were tasked with selecting a large, densely populated urban environment and designing an experience for the enjoyment of its residents and visitors.

Their award-winning project, aptly titled "Antipode," proposed a two-week cultural-exchange festival unfolding simultaneously in Bangkok and Lima, Peru. The two cities are at the exact opposite ends of the world, which is known as being antipodes. The team's backstory mentioned how two children stumbled upon magical whispering trees in Thailand and Peru.

"The trees allowed them to talk to each other from opposite ends of the globe," said Matthew Ho, a fifth-year senior in architecture. "They grew up together, sharing their lives with each other through the magic of the trees. Eventually, the trees filled up with their memories and stopped working."

"The Antipode Festival celebrates The Great Stumps — remnants of the magical trees that are converted into stages at a public park in each city," Ho continued. "These serve as the central points for the festival, hosting cultural performances and the opening and closing ceremonies. In the Closing Ceremony, the Great Stump sinks into itself to become a live portal between Lima and Bangkok, where guests can see, hear and communicate with their counterparts from the other side of the world."

Ho had long dreamed of entering the competition and shared the idea with Christina Brant, a fellow fifth-year senior in architecture and human-computer interaction. The pair recruited John Brieger, a senior in computer science, and Angeline Chen, a junior majoring in communication design.

Named one of six finalist teams in December, the quartet earned an all-expense-paid trip to Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, Calif., to present their work to Imagineers. They also went behind the scenes to see what makes Walt Disney Imagineering — and Disneyland — tick.

"We've been socializing with Imagineers, learning what they do and seeing projects. It's been awesome," Brant said. "It's been interesting to see the collaborative process and how things work."

Started in 1992, Imaginations challenges teams of university students to showcase their skills and talents by designing a Disney-related project. It also serves as a platform for Walt Disney Imagineering to scout the next generation of creative and innovative thinkers for possible internships with the company.

This is the third consecutive year that a CMU team has placed in one of the top three spots.

In addition to earning a $3,000 cash prize (and $1,000 for the university), the students gained practical knowledge of design and multidisciplinary collaboration during their process.

"I learned how to work with people from different backgrounds and skillsets, and how those can be melded into an overall proposal or product," Brant said. "When people have diverse backgrounds and experiences, you have different opinions and ways of viewing things. And I think that really challenges and pushes the project further."

Top photo: Image courtesy of Walt Disney Imagineering

Group photo © Disney Photographer: Gary Krueger
[l-r] Carnegie Mellon University students Christina Brant, Angeline Chen, John Brieger & Matthew Ho earned first place in the 2014 Imaginations design competition.

Related Links: Read press release | Imaginations competition | School of Architecture | Human-Computer Interaction Institute | Computer Science Department | School of Design | News Brief: Carnegie Mellon Team Take Second in Imaginations Design Competition | HCI Undergrad Part of Winning Team at Disney Imagineering

Homepage Story Archives