Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Disney Imagineers Lead College Students to Victory

LONG BEACH, Calif., A team of college students led by Disney Imagineers swept a College Bowl-style competition beating more than 500 students from around the United States with a perfect score to showcase their skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

This perfect score was the first in the history of an annual conference hosted by Great Minds in STEM (formerly HENAAC), a multicultural organization that encourages minority and female students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The Disney-led team impressed the judges with creative problem-solving, scoring a perfect five out of five in the case studies/challenges. All agreed that the final skit sealed the deal

“The students crash landed their spaceship on our planet because they ran out of fuel,” said WDI principal technical staff Alfredo Ayala, one of the Disney coaches. “There was an inability to communicate because we “aliens” communicated telepathically and the “invaders” communicated verbally. So the students developed software that translated the telepathic communication to verbal speech to resolve the misunderstanding, and we worked together to produce a new energy source to fuel their trip back home.”

“It was that kind of creativity that set us apart,” said Walt Disney World Minority Business manager Betty Martinez Lowery. “While the other teams designed weapons, bombs and lasers to defend themselves and destroy the aliens, our team designed communication software to solve the problem and make friends with them.”

At the awards ceremony the next evening, the rookie team arrived with their hopes still high and their expectations still in check, but the lid came off of both when they swept their king-sized competition 5-0 – a first in the ten-year history of the College Bowl.

“I think this event demonstrated the business case for diversity in a very succinct way,” said Lowery. “You are at your best when you have a lot of different minds and skill sets around the table because everyone brings something. So I think our coaches looked for that kind of diversity of discipline, thought and talent when they selected their team, and when they put it together, they had a complete—and winning—picture.”

When the Disney team coaches arrive next year as defending champs of the HENAAC College Bowl, they’ll be ready to defend their title with the highest of hopes, elevated expectations—and the home field advantage—when they defend their title during the annual conference which will be held at Walt Disney World in 2010.