Alumna makes magic at Universal theme parks

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Western Engineering News | May 14, 2018

“People think it’s magic. We call it engineering.”

This clever quip holds especially true for Western Engineering alumna Rebecca Dean, BESc’13, who currently works as a ride and show engineer at Universal Creative in Orlando, Florida.

When visiting a theme park, people often don’t think about all the technical work and design that goes into the engineering of the rides and attractions; they’re too busy enjoying the thrill of the ride and taking in the “magic” of the overall experience.

Dean found her ideal career niche when she started working at Universal Creative in May 2015, combining her interest in themed entertainment, biomechanics and the unique and challenging engineering problems that arise from theme park design.

“I was interested in building a final product that creates experiences and lasting memories,” said Dean.

Dean graduated from Western University in 2013 with two degrees – a BSc in kinesiology and a BESc in mechanical engineering.

Reminiscing on her time at Western, Dean recalled one of her most memorable classes, Joint Biomechanics with Dr. Tom Jenkyn, where students worked with 3M on slap shot research for a new line of hockey grip tape.

“This project was awesome because it pulled together my interests in human motion and sports, and used multiple engineering principles to solve challenging problems,” said Dean.

In her role at Universal Creative, Dean’s day-to-day duties involve working with attraction concepts to develop performance and technical specifications; managing vendors to design and build new ride and show equipment; reviewing fabrication and testing; and installing equipment for final testing and guest enjoyment.

One of the major projects Dean has been involved with at Universal was the creation of Volcano Bay, a new water theme park, where Dean assisted with testing for several of the water slides.

“Many of the testing shifts were long days in the Florida heat and late nights and early mornings,” said Dean. “But seeing the guests enjoy the slides makes it all worth it!”

Dean is responsible for overseeing the development of ride and show attractions. She manages vendors from the initial kickoff through to the fabrication, testing and commissioning of ride and show equipment, including animated figures, show action equipment, special effects and costumes.

“The professors at Western Engineering always encouraged us to think critically, ask questions and be creative in problem-solving, which has helped me be effective in my career at Universal,” said Dean.

In October 2017, Dean returned to her alma mater as the keynote speaker at Go ENG Girl, an annual event held by Western Engineering Outreach that provides an opportunity for girls in Grades 7 to 10 to learn from female engineering professionals, academics and students while enjoying fun, hands-on activities.

At Go ENG Girl, Dean shared the excitement of a career in engineering, discussing how her path at Western and Universal opened doors to a variety of adventures, including travel opportunities that sent her to Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and throughout the United States.

In terms of what’s next for Dean, she will be relocating to Beijing, China, in the upcoming year to assist in the design and development of a new theme park, working hard to keep the magic alive on an international level.