Hey, MSE graduate: what are you going to do next?
July 15, 2013 2 Comments
When Marcia graduated in December 2012 with a general business minor and a polymers focus to her MSE degree, she really meant it when she said, “I’m going to Disney World!” Before applying to graduate school, Marcia decided to work at one last magical post-graduate internship.
“Magical Moments” isn’t a phrase an engineer would normally use, but in my position, this is an everyday saying. I am a member of the R&D team in the Creative Entertainment department at Walt Disney World, where we develop and refine lightweight, comfortable, durable, and colorful goods for the Costuming Team. We use a broad palette of materials, from soft foams and urethanes, to stiff epoxy-fiberglass composites, using processes including hand lay-ups, rotocasting, resin infusion, vacuum forming, and rapid prototyping.
With Lucasfilm and Marvel joining Disney, the number and variety of projects continue to increase. For new projects, we work from a design concept, then research and develop manufacturing methods as we build the prototypes. Redesigns are commissioned when a specific piece is outdated, either aesthetically or technologically. We continuously investigate new materials and techniques that promise to reduce weight, increase strength, or address a specific concern such as degradation or yellowing from UV exposure. Our team also provides materials research, testing, and expertise to other departments, including ride and show engineering and animatronics.
Many of our designs are complex in ways that aren’t immediately obvious to the casual observer. Our pieces need to meet weight, strength, and durability specifications, as well as aesthetic and comfort standards. In addition, we need to keep in mind that park guests will interact with our pieces, so the costumes need to not only look right, they also need to “feel” right. For example, a composite piece designed to look like metal also needs to feel like metal. If a guest taps on it, it needs to “ping” like metal.
I have had such a great time working here! Every day I get to work “hands on,” and the projects are each unique. I have learned a lot about different processes and materials, as well as to develop prototypes. I wish I could stay longer, but I have chosen to go back to school and will be pursuing my M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University beginning September 2013.