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October 15, 2009

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Kids to design their own ride at Disney

KIDS tired of experiencing the same old roller coasters have a new ride to tackle.

Walt Disney World in Florida was scheduled to open an attraction yesterday allowing kids to design their own ride, then experience it on a giant robotic arm simulator.

"Sum of All Thrills" is the first ride in Epcot's Innoventions pavilion, where businesses sponsor educational attractions and hawk their brands.

Unlike IBM and Liberty Mutual, which wouldn't mind selling tomorrow's customers a laptop or an insurance policy, "Sum of All Thrills" sponsor Raytheon has nothing to offer the average consumer.

But the high-tech defense contractor does have jobs for those passionate about engineering, and would like to broaden the field.

"Our aim is to show kids how math and engineering make the things they care about really come to life and happen," said Kristin Hilf, vice president of Raytheon public affairs.

The ride begins, after a tutorial, in a design room.

On a touchscreen computer, visitors pick a vehicle shape and determine how fast the ride should go based on ascent, inversions or corkscrews.

The information is saved on a magnetized card strip and fed into the simulator, where visitors experience the track they just designed.

The cards are imprinted with numerical identifiers kids can use at home for a Raytheon educational Website.

"I did a lot of talking to kids before we got started. What I found is kids typically didn't like math, and didn't understand how it applied in their lives," said Eric Goodman, Disney Imagineer and "Sum of All Thrills" project manager.

"They always felt there was one answer, and that's what you've got to do - find that one answer. What this does is show kids and adults the possibilities. If you have a math-controlling view, you get to control it."

Neither Disney nor Raytheon would disclose their financial agreement, but Disney has acknowledged in financial filings receiving substantial profit from ride sponsors.

Last year, the agreements helped keep its parks and resorts segment from losing revenue in the third quarter despite declining attendance.


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