Dragons in the Industry
I graduated from Drexel University in 2015 with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering & Mechanics. In my freshman year at Drexel, I co-founded the Drexel Theme Park Engineering & Design Group to provide an outlet and resource for students like me who were interested in pursuing a career in themed entertainment. I served as the club’s president until 2014. My favorite TPED memory is our first trip to the IAAPA Expo in 2012, which was endlessly exciting and redefined my understanding of the amusement industry. During my time at Drexel, I completed various co-ops and internships in the aerospace and chemical industries before co-oping at Oceaneering Entertainment Systems, where I performed show programming and engineering tasks for tracked and trackless ride vehicles.
In my senior year, my friends and I became finalists in Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations Competition, and traveled to Glendale, CA to present our project, “Woollahra”. From this experience, I earned an internship at WDI in Special Effects, which I began after graduating in 2015. Today, I work as a full-time Imagineer in this same department.
Hey, my name is Nick Rooney and I studied mechanical engineering during my time at Drexel University. Growing up I was always interested in the designs and mechanisms of theme park rides and thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of riding them. I came to Drexel University with the dream of designing rides for theme parks around the world. Through TPED I was able to make my dreams come to life. TPED takes numerous tours of different theme parks and rides manufacturers in the area. I took a deep interest in the design and development of the rides Oceaneering Entertainment Systems (OES) was working on when we toured their manufacturing plant. Through my contacts and previous Drexel co-ops, I was able to place a co-op position at OES. While there I learned about a structural and dynamic analysis of ride systems, how rides are designed, and how their dark ride systems brought different IPs and stories to life! I was offered a full-time position after graduation and have been happily working at OES ever since. I would not be living my dream today without the help of TPED.
One of my many favorite memories of TPED was a behind the scenes trip we took to Hershey Park. While there we learned about park operations, maintenance and the development and installation of new rides. One of the coolest rides we were able to tour was Storm Runner (coaster) which uses a hydraulic launch system to send guests flying over hills, through twists, turns, and inversions. The launch mechanism was composed of several hydraulic pumps driving a huge winch drum that pulls the car forward. The mechanical system was unlike anything I have ever seen and it excited me even more about mechanical engineering and the industry. The theme park industry is a truly unique industry that utilizes standard and uncommon mechanisms in fascinating and creative ways. I’m thankful for TPED for providing me the opportunity to achieve my goals and dreams while having a blast and vastly expanding my knowledge of the industry.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with amusement rides and how these mechanical contraptions can be used to tell a story. When I started school at Drexel I was thrilled to learn there was a student club focused on the technical aspects of Themed Entertainment, and I was quickly able to meet other students who were determined to apply their engineering interests towards the industry. TPED gave me so many opportunities to explore different realms within the industry and learn about the variety of detail that can encompass the design of different experiences such as ride systems, animatronics, show equipment, and special effects. I have so many memories from the weekly meetings in my 5 years with the group and getting to travel to different functions such as IAAPA, ASTM-F24, facility tours, and park outings. My favorite memory is traveling to Toronto, Canada and competing in the inaugural Ryerson Thrill Competition.
Through my involvement with TPED and leveraging the Drexel Co-Ops, I was able to open doors to several opportunities within the industry including working park operations on the College Program at Walt Disney World, contributing to the production of new tracked and trackless dark rides at Oceaneering Entertainment Systems, and supporting attraction reliability efforts with Sustainment Engineering at Disneyland. With these experiences, I returned to Disney after graduation as an engineer for the Ride & Show Engineering team at the Disneyland Resort. I support projects for attractions in Disneyland and Disney parks worldwide on efforts such as maintenance rehabs, safety and reliability enhancements, and new attraction commissioning. My role allows me to be involved in every aspect of design from conception, through manufacturing, and ultimately installation on a wide variety of systems and entertainment experiences.
I came to Drexel with one goal – to land a job in the themed entertainment industry. I started out in mechanical engineering, but quickly switched to electrical after an Animatronics Freshman Design class where I discovered that I enjoyed programming. I spent my first co-op doing the Disney College Program – where I had a blast, but didn’t do much in the way of engineering. However, this experience got my foot in the door and led to two professional internships with the Walt Disney Company. The first was in Assistive Technology, where I worked on a handheld device which helps blind or deaf guests experience attractions. The second was with Architecture & Facilities Engineering, where I worked on power & lighting systems. After graduation, I decided that I wanted to focus more on control systems, so I left Disney and took a job with ITEC Entertainment. Since then I have had the opportunity to work on multiple exciting new attractions at Universal Studios Orlando, Hollywood, and Japan.
I was thrilled Freshman year when I discovered that there was a whole club full of people with similar goals and interests. The interview for my second internship at Disney came directly from a connection I made at TPED, and I know many others who can say the same. In an industry this small, who you know is important, and the connections you make in TPED can help you throughout your career. Some of my favorite TPED memories include multiple IAAPA trips to Orlando and attending ASTM in New Orleans. Not to mention, some of my most meaningful college friendships came from TPED!
Hey, I’m Harrison! For years I wanted to work on amusement rides, and Drexel TPED was the spring-board that got both my arms and legs through the door. I was fortunate enough to spend all three of my co-ops working for companies within the entertainment industry. My first co-op was at Oceaneering Entertainment Systems (OES) where I worked on various projects conducting analyses related to material stress, vehicle dynamics, and manufacturing decisions. My second co-op was at Universal Creative where I worked with the In-House Analysis and Testing Group applying instrumentation, recording data, and analyzing results for a ride and show equipment. My third co-op was at ATA Engineering where I worked on designs and structural analysis of static and dynamic attractions using advanced and detailed computer simulation.
The marriage of Drexel’s co-op program and Drexel TPED provided the perfect opportunity to work in the amusement industry. Most internships last 12-16 weeks, while Drexel’s co-op sessions last up to 26 weeks long – that’s a ton of time to get settled in and immersed in a project. Not only does Drexel TPED provide you with the knowledge and attitude to become successful in the entertainment industry, but it also connects you with hundreds of people around the world who work on rides and attractions every day! Drexel TPED regularly attends the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo as well as the ASTM-F24 conferences every year. At these events, Drexel students, including myself, have actively networked and connected with working professionals within the industry – through these experiences, the club has been very fortunate to have guest speakers, behind the scenes tours, as well as co-op / internship opportunities at various companies!
Drexel TPED also gave me the opportunity to get involved with design/build projects. Ranging from animatronics, kinetic structures, and model amusement rides, the club has provided an environment for open experimentation and exploration of real-world design problems related to the amusement industry. Immediately following the work on the animatronic dragon, most interview conversations quickly turned to our development and construction of that project. This kind of student-led project experience is very appealing to many employers both within and external to the amusement industry. I highly recommend spending time developing personal projects, and Drexel TPED is just the place to do it!
I have returned to ATA Engineering full-time supporting the Entertainment working group as a design/analysis engineer. There I am able to work on the design, analysis, and testing of mechanical and structural systems related to theme parks. Without Drexel TPED, I would have never been able to realize my dream of working in the themed entertainment industry! Please feel free to contact with any questions, and I sincerely hope you join Drexel TPED :)