STEAM Tips from Walt Disney Imagineering: Think Like an Engineer!

Kevin Rafferty, Jr.

by , Communications, WDI

The most exciting part about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) is that it takes all five disciplines to create something really special. There are Imagineers who are experts in each area, collaborating to create experiences much greater than the sum of their parts. 

Last week, we shared STEAM tips about the arts, and the series continues today with STEAM tips from Imagineers about how to think like an engineer!

Angela Jay, a senior software developer who worked on many of the interactive elements in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, said, “A user interface is anything that allows a user (you!) to interact with a system, like a ride or a robot or an app. First ask what a user might want to know about a system and how they might need to control it. Then decide how to organize everything, which starts with drawing it out. Where should the information be displayed? Where should the buttons go? What kind of buttons? Maybe a dial would work better? Since this is a sketch, you can rearrange things until the layout looks right to you. You can even cut them out of paper and lay them out. Test out your design with a family member to see if they understand what everything is and does. This is called ‘user testing’ and is a part of User Experience design. If something doesn’t make sense, try again!”

Armand Dao, a senior civil engineer, works on utility designs such as stormwater management plans. Armand recently worked on the utility designs for Pandora – The World of Avatar. He suggested, “When designing complex utility systems, think about it like a layered cake. The bottom of the cake is the base and most stable, therefore, you can start stacking your systems from there. We start with the deepest utilities and then work our way up. Once that’s complete, our show production team puts the icing on the cake for guests to see.”

Senior Project Controls Planner Jason Bayer helps to plan the design, production and installation of attractions such as Avatar Flight of Passage and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Jason advised, “Engineering is really about developing a way of thinking that makes you a good problem solver. If you ever think to yourself, ‘When will I ever use this in real life?,’ try to shift your perspective and view it as a way to help develop your problem-solving skills. The ability to assess a problem or situation, think through possible outcomes by applying your knowledge and come to a good answer or decision is something that will be valuable your entire life.”

Stay tuned for more STEAM tips from Imagineers!


  • i love STEAM! used to look forward to it when I was a kid all the time. and yeah, I totally agree with you. It takes more than a few elements of STEAM to make a project. I think I am going to do a STEAM afternoon with my family. I hope that people who read this are sure to do a STEAM project sometime soon. And in Walt Disney World, they use a lot of STEAM in their structures and all of their ideas! I think that this is a very well written paragraph and I hate to go on and on.. but STEAM can make your dreams come true!

  • UI exists in everything, even the parks themselves. Have you noticed that at Magic Kingdom and Disneyland, the coffee shop is on your right as you enter, and the Emporium gift shop is on your right as you leave? That’s UI to work with most people’s tendency to stay to the right and put the things people look for in the morning and evening right in their path.
    If you look at an aerial view of the Magic Kingdom, the first bridge on the right to Tomorrowland is wider than the others, for the same reason.

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