Solana Beach native thrilled to be a finalist in Disney design competition

UC Berkeley team in Walt Disney’s Imagineering’s 21st ImagiNations Design Competition: from left, Imagineering mentor Dolce Wang; ImagiNations students Louise Hussey, Laura Cuccaro and Elaine SooHoo; and ImagiNations mentor Nikkolas Smith   Photo: Gary Krueger, Walt Disney Imagineering
UC Berkeley team in Walt Disney’s Imagineering’s 21st ImagiNations Design Competition: from left, Imagineering mentor Dolce Wang; ImagiNations students Louise Hussey, Laura Cuccaro and Elaine SooHoo; and ImagiNations mentor Nikkolas Smith Photo: Gary Krueger, Walt Disney Imagineering

By Kelley Carlson

Last week was an emotional roller coaster ride for Solana Beach native Laura Cuccaro, filled with thrills and excitement.

The 21-year-old was in Glendale to present a project with her team to Walt Disney Imagineering — the minds behind the theme parks, resorts, rides and attractions, cruise ships and real estate developments — for the 2012 ImagiNations Design Competition.

“It’s been so amazing, really surreal; it’s been a childhood dream of mine (to meet) Imagineers ... to pick their brains and mingle with them,” Cuccaro said.

The competition encourages university students from across the country to consider careers in creative and technical fields such as engineering, architecture and digital arts. This year, participants were asked: “Imagine it’s the year 3011. Disney has entertainment experiences all over the world, many 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?”

Representing UC Berkeley, Cuccaro and fellow team members Louise Hussey and Elaine Soohoo proposed the idea of the first Disney Interactive Resort and Entertainment Center in space, the Artem Sustainable Eatery and Entertainment Disk, or A-SEED.

Their project summary: “Framed by lunar mountains and celestial vistas, the Artem Sustainable Eatery and Entertainment Disk (A-SEED), the first Disney hotel and resort on the moon, welcomes guests to explore and enjoy the beauty and wonders of space, while relaxing in the all-inclusive vacation experience. Disney’s A-SEED provides a historical perspective of the journey to human colonization of the moon, combining it with the luxury and amenities of the year 3011, and providing an insightful and interactive look forward to the future of the moon and its inhabitants. The SEED is the first of its kind resort, built to yield a minimal impact on the host satellite, while maintaining the attention to detail that Disney is famous for. The Artem SEED provides an experience that is full of ‘Exploration, Education and Relaxation!’ and showcases the legendary imagination, innovation and magic of Disney like it has never been before!”

Before the competition, Cuccaro’s previous experiences with Disney had been a little more down to Earth. She first visited Disneyland at 1-and-a-half-months old, and went an average of twice a year while growing up.

While Cuccaro enjoyed getting photographed with the theme park’s characters, she was  apprehensive about some of the rides during her younger years.

As a way to calm her down, her dad, Chuck Cuccaro, explained the physics of roller coasters and emphasized that they weren’t going to fly off the track.

So after analyzing Gadget’s Go Coaster in Toontown around age 4 or 5, Laura Cuccaro’s interest in engineering began to take root.

She first learned about the ImagiNations Design Competition while a student at Canyon Crest Academy, but at the time was too young to enter, since entries are limited to college juniors, seniors, full-time graduate students or those who are within one year after graduation.

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