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Local grad finalist in national Disney design competition

SOLANA BEACH — Laura Cuccaro, Canyon Crest Academy class of 2008, has been selected as part of a three-woman team of design students from UC Berkeley who are finalists in the 2012 Disney Imagineering ImagiNations competition.

ImagiNations is an annual program designed and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative arm of all Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide, which allows participants to showcase their talents and gain practical knowledge in design from leaders in immersive storytelling and themed entertainment.

The finalist teams are awarded five-day trips to Imagineering in Glendale from Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 where they will present their projects to Imagineering executives, meet and network with technical and creative Imagineers, go behind the scenes of where Disney magic is created, and interview for paid internships, culminating in an awards lunch/ceremony Feb. 3.

Laura Cuccaro, Canyon Crest Academy class of 2008, is selected as part of a three-woman team of design students from UC Berkeley who are finalists in the 2012 Disney Imagineering ImagiNations competition. Courtesy photo

For this year’s ImagiNations design competition, students were given this challenge: “Imagine it’s the year 3011. Disney has entertainment experiences all over the world, many of which don’t even exist today. The human race is finally living on the moon and Walt Disney Imagineering wants to be the first one to provide entertainment and/or recreation to the new citizens there. What would you imagine that this new Disney experience could be?”
Cuccaro and partners Louise Hussey and Elaine Soohoo, responded to the challenge with a project titled,  “A-SEED: Artem Sustainable Eatery and Entertainment Disk.”

“At check-in, guests will be given a Multifunctional Explorer’s Communication Armband (MECA), which will not only provide access to their rooms, activities, and concierge, but also serve as a souvenir, allowing guests to preserve memories and collect special badges from activities, and later share them with friends and family.

“As guests enjoy the amenities, they can further utilize their MECA’s by activating hidden Abha’s, a symbol of Moon exploration and enlightenment, which introduce hidden pathways, special quests, and opportunities to win collectors badges. Whether guests choose to explore the lunar landscape, marvel at the stars, relax at The Hollow, or dine at The Crescent, Artem showcases the legendary imagination, innovation, and magic of Disney like it has never been realized before!”

ImagiNations  reaches out to the widest talent pool possible. The top three teams will be awarded cash prizes with the first-place team receiving $3,000. An additional $1,000 grant will be awarded to the first place team, to be equally divided among its sponsoring universities and/or organizations.

The six team finalists represent UC Berkeley, California State Polytechnic University — Pomona, Carnegie Mellon University, North Carolina State University, Savannah College of Art & Design and Utah State University.

Cuccaro, 21, first visited Disneyland when she was less than 1 month old. She recalls becoming interested in engineering after analyzing, with her dad, how Gadget’s Go Coaster  in Toontown worked.  

“This has been a dream of mine for a long time and I’m excited to talk to the Imagineers and pick their brains, and present my ideas to them, knowing the presence Disney has around the world. I feel honored that they picked my group.”

Cuccaro credits her alma mater, Canyon Crest Academy, with her success. She belonged to the Ecoclub, and was on the math team under the direction of teacher Brian Shay.

“I had some great teachers who were encouraging,” she said. “They said there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.”

Cuccaro met her future collaborators through their sorority, Gamma Phi Beta.

“We individually heard about the competition and decided to do it this year together,” she said. “We wanted to incorporate sustainability and interaction in a classic Disney, very detail-oriented resort.”

She added, “I’m really proud of the interactive features of Artem that allows multiple generations to experience the same Disney memories.”

Soledad Boyle is internship program manager of Walt Disney Imagineering.

“The A-SEED project’s beautiful presentation, graphics and the resort’s overall design won over the judges,” she said. “Furthermore, the connection to environmental sustainability, which is top of mind for The Walt Disney Company, made A-SEED place among the top six finalist teams.”

After graduating this spring, Cuccaro hopes to work toward improving water quality in the United States and abroad, in addition to holding out for her Imagineering dreams to come true.
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