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Theme Park Engineering and Design Offers Full Circuit of Activities for Boilermakers

Members of Theme Park Engineering and Design at Purdue

For many, going to a theme park is one of life’s simple joys. There’s the thrill of getting strapped into a seat and being taken up to the edge of the world, the stomach drop of plummeting down the peak and a day full of memories spent with family and friends. For a select few at Purdue, theme parks mean much more. The complicated mechanics and engineering prowess required to design and implement the world’s greatest parks are appreciated and replicated in one of Purdue’s most niche organizations – Theme Park Engineering and Design at Purdue (TPED).

TPED at Purdue is an organization dedicated to providing a place for students interested in the entertainment and theme park industry to further their careers, meet other students equally passionate about  theme parks, engage in fun and challenging projects and network with some of the biggest names in the industry.

Some of the activities that TPED hosts include off-season tours, park visits, guest speakers, design competitions that challenge students to do concept design for a section of a theme park or specific ride, student-led projects, educational meetings, annual conferences and social events.

Recent theme park trips have included a trip to Six Flags Great America and Kings Island. These trips provide opportunities for club bonding, as well as appreciation for the feats of engineering accomplished by professionals in the field.

Another unique event the club attends is the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo. This expo is in Orlando, Florida, and is hosted annually in November. The IAAPA Expo is the biggest event in themed entertainment, where companies show off their newest and best rides, animatronics and other attractions.

TPED provides several professional development opportunities, one being the plethora of guest speakers that they host. When asked which guest speaker was his favorite, Ethan Perry, a junior studying mechanical engineering and president of TPED, reflects.

“Mine personally was Keith McVeen,” Perry recalls. “He’s a creative director down at Universal and he was a Purdue graduate. Keith graduated in computer graphics and does a bunch of concept art and ride design. His coolest accomplishment, in my opinion, is that he designed the Jurassic World VelociCoaster. He’s what we like to call a coaster nerd. It was really interesting hearing him talk about the other coasters that inspired his designs.”

A loop in the K'NEX Coaster project

Along with guest speakers, TPED also leads many projects. Students have the opportunity to design and build projects relevant to theme parks and entertainment. TPED has two main accomplishments that they are proud to have created – the K’NEX coaster and SHOVE.

SHOVE is an interactive trashcan, modeled after PUSH the Talking Trash Can at Disney. Jared Geyer, senior in animation and secretary of TPED speaks to the process of designing and creating SHOVE.

“We were able to get in contact with the original Imagineers who made PUSH, which helped a lot,” says Geyer. “We’ve got the majority of it done and now are just refining it. It’s really cool to see the culmination of our efforts.”

Though SHOVE has made its debut on campus, there are still a few goals on the horizon to improve the friendly trash can. TPED is currently investigating different wheels for the trash can and discussing the logistics of adding a speaker so it can speak with students. Students working with TPED are always seeking to innovate and expand on already great ideas.

The K’NEX Coaster has also been an incredible project that TPED has worked on. The collaborative project has spanned several years. The K’NEX Coaster has gone through several phases which Perry breaks down.

“Our first phase was the spring semester of 2022,” Perry states. “Our faculty advisor at the time said to us, ‘Hey, I want to build a rollercoaster around my lab,’ and getting from that basic concept to a logistical system was quite the challenge. We had to balance a budget, gather materials, figure out how to support it and find out various small details from there. The thoughts that went into designing it were very on-the-fly and having the big end goal motivated us when we got to any roadblocks.”

Their second stage started in the fall semester of 2022. Perry explains, “Fall semester of 2022 was all about refining the coaster. We wanted to make it smoother and better.”

For the third stage, the design elements of the coaster were able to shine through.

“We added some theming and added an elevator lift, which is a bit ambitious,” Geyer says. “Ambition was the big thought that went into the design. Theming is just the small stuff if you want to keep the definition simple. We added more scenic elements to tell a loose story: the story of Purdue.”



TPED has accomplished much with its time at Purdue. The two projects that they executed are impressive, but the organization is also very proud of their networking accomplishments. One of the organization’s goals is to continue strengthening their web of connections.

“The industry is so small compared to others that are at Purdue and it’s nice having connections here catered to that niche interest,” Geyer says. “I want as many people as possible to have professional experiences and we’ve already helped so many people get internships and jobs post-graduation. Getting people into positions like that also helps more companies take notice of TPED as an organization.”

Another goal club leaders have for TPED is to continue building the social aspects of the club. They believe that it is important to foster good relations among the club members – that way individuals can succeed not only professionally, but also socially.

“Jared and I have both met a lot of great friends in the club,” Perry elaborates. “Having social events logistically brings people back to the club and it’s great having a collection of people just as nerdy as me that I could talk with about theme parks. This club goes past just theme parks. I’ve met some amazing people and it has been super beneficial to my mental health having these great people to rely on. Bringing people together in its own way enriches the campus experience.”

There are many great opportunities unlocked when students get involved with TPED. Meetings are Wednesday nights from 6-7 p.m. and club leaders highly encourage those interested to contact them on BoilerLink, follow them on Instagram, and check out their website to get involved.

Written by: Hannah Williamson, Writer, Student Life Marketing