Zoe Jirovsky appreciates the roller coaster that is college life.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln senior is inching toward another momentum-building hill that will hurl her into the professional world, but she’s not dreading the freefall.
Experiences with the Theme Park Design Group on campus and an internship designing roller coasters with Premier Rides in Maryland have strapped her into the career path she’s been chasing since she was a child.
Jirovsky, a senior mechanical engineering major, grew up in Chandler, Arizona, which was within driving distance of Disneyland.
“I was a Disneyland obsessive,” Jirovsky said. “As I got older, I became interested in the design, the history of it and what goes on behind-the-scenes, and I thought, ‘I want to help create that.’”
Jirovsky had family in Nebraska, too, which brought her to Lincoln and the College of Engineering. Here, Jirovsky honed her curiosity and found others to ride the peaks and valleys with her. She joined the university’s Theme Park Design Group when it formed in 2016. Members have done campus and community projects – most recently bringing Louise Pound back to life – competed in design contests and attended conventions to network with professionals in the field, which is how Jirovsky met the president of Premier Rides.
“In between seminars, we had to be brave and just go up to them,” she said. “’I’m Zoe, here’s my card. Here’s my resume. This is why I’m good at what I do. Thank you for your time.’ It worked because a couple months later I got a call to interview.”
The interview earned her a 12-week summer internship on Premier Rides’ marketing team.
“It solidified this career for me. It was the best experience to be working on something I’ve been interested in for as long as I can remember,” Jirovsky said. “It’s just very easy to go to work every day and work on something I enjoyed and was passionate about.”
The opportunity at Premier allowed Jirovsky to experience many facets of the roller coaster design world.
“I helped with everything from AutoCAD sketches of vehicle cars, to efficiency and capacity tests on the ride simulations, making sure it was meeting the threshold for riders per hour that the company wanted,” Jirovsky said. “Being on the team that put together proposals, I got to see the engineering side, and at the same time, we had to put together proposals that were aesthetically pleasing, and use creative writing to build a narrative about the ride. It was a really good mix for me.”
Jirovsky will use all these skills again very soon. The Theme Park Design Group has been selected to compete in the Ryerson Invitational Thrill Design Competition in November. The intensive four-day contest is hosted by Universal Orlando. The group will also take on the Disney Imaginations Competition, in which student groups submit in-depth proposals to tackle the competition challenge.
“It’s going to be a crazy busy year, but those are good ways to get your name out there and build a portfolio,” she said. “It is a niche industry, so there’s not a crazy amount of jobs. Having that internship, going to those conferences, the experience with my club here – all of it has helped.”