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Nordonia grad introduced to world of 'imagineering'

Howard University team picked in Disney creative contest

By Eric Marotta | Editor Published: February 21, 2017 12:00 AM
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GLENDALE, CALIF. -- A 2014 Nordonia High School graduate is hoping to become an "imagineer" after his Howard University team was named a finalist in a design competition sponsored by the creative force behind Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Walt Disney Imagineering, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co. that dreams up, designs and builds all Disney theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, real estate developments, and entertainment venues worldwide, hosted its 26th annual design competition to identify future "imagineers" in January. According to its website, the term imagineer includes a "global team of creative and technical professionals building on the Disney legacy of storytelling to pioneer new forms of entertainment through technical innovation and creativity."

Finalists from each year's competition -- including former Macedonia resident Jordan McRae -- are invited to apply for internships and possible future careers at Walt Disney Imagineering.

McRae, who is about two years from earning a degree in architecture at Howard University, said building is his passion, including forts when he was a child.

"It was kind of a natural transition into architecture -- it was just something I was always interested in," he said.

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Together with teammates Kennedy Carter, Cydney Anderson, and Renee Whiteley, the Howard University group was tasked with dreaming up a project to showcase their talents. After discarding the idea of an elevated bike path and other ideas that could conceivably be built, the group settled on an idea they called "Campus Canvas."

Crafted from electronic "smart glass" technology, the installation would consist of flat panels stationed around the university, where the public would be invited to become temporary graffiti artists. The digital "paint" they would use on the panels would slowly fade, allowing for new creations every week.

McRae said his team felt "Campus Canvas" could be a way to brighten up the university grounds. Also, "We wanted to bring the culture of Washington, D.C. onto our campus," he said.

There are no plans to actually construct Campus Canvas, as the competition is intended for students to show that such a project is possible.

"The technology exists; it just hasn't been pushed to this limit," McRae said.

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In addition to Howard University, finalist teams came from the University of California, San Diego; Carnegie Mellon University; Miami University; University of Notre Dame; Savannah College of Art and Design; and Iowa State University. The finalist teams were selected by "Imagineers" working at the design and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

Other team concepts included: a nature-inspired California retreat featuring aquariums and a private beach, tree slides and zip lines; a multi-layered park environment paying tribute to local Native American culture; a man-made island with a waterfall and a cave that doubles as an ice skating rink in winter; an urban forest featuring five open air tree houses; and a giant hourglass in which guests can pause, relax, and feel as if they are actually stopping time.

McRae says he would like to be accepted as a Disney intern, and eventually become a full-fledged Imagineer, adding he really enjoys the Southern California climate.

"It seems like a pretty good gig," he said. "It's warmer than it is in D.C. The weather is nice and I like looking at the mountains."

Eric Marotta: 330-541-9433

Email: emarotta@recordpub.com


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