A new children’s museum attraction engineered by University of Nebraska–Lincoln students makes kids feel as strong as their favorite superheroes.
Undergraduate members of Nebraska’s Theme Park Design Group designed and built a green pulley swing set for the new Lincoln Children’s Museum superheroes exhibit. Using the pulleys, the kids can pull themselves and others off the ground almost 2 feet, helping them imagine the feeling of having super strength.
The students in the organization, which was started in fall 2017 by freshman mechanical engineering major John Strope of Mobile, Alabama, put in more than 150 hours over six weekends at Nebraska Innovation Studio to complete the project.
“The initial design and construction was quick, but the small details — sanding and paint — took a lot of time,” Strope said. “A lot of us are wondering what we’ll do with our Saturdays now.”
Initially, Strope hadn’t thought about community service in the club, but after being contacted about the museum project by David Martin, director of Innovation Studio, the students jumped at the opportunity.
Strope said they were excited to use the range of skills in the multi-disciplinary group, which boasts members from nearly every college on campus, for a community service project, and to see a finished product.
“As we were testing it ourselves and preparing it for transportation to the museum, everyone was saying, ‘Wow, I’m so proud of this,’” Strope said. “It’s really cool that we actually designed an attraction that kids will use and enjoy.”
Now, Strope said, he and other Theme Park Design Group members hope to make community service an annual tradition, along with the weekly meetings to discuss upcoming theme park design competitions and to learn about the many facets of building, designing and managing theme parks.
“We’d like to talk with other civic groups to see what we can do for them,” Strope said. “It’s really nice to give back and it also builds our portfolios.”
Strope started the group after arriving at Nebraska, wanting to pursue a career in theme park design. He found a mentor in Michael Loehring, senior director of student services in the College of Engineering, who encouraged him to start the organization and serves as the faculty adviser. Strope quickly recruited 35 student members for the organization and has since made many close friends in the group.
“I think they were interested because theme parks are really complex and create unique problem-solving opportunities,” Strope said. “It mixes urban planning, engineering, design, theater production, just about anything you can think of.”
The group is also working on designs for the Cornell Theme Park Design Competition this spring and intends to participate in the Walt Disney Imaginations challenge in fall 2018.