Still Bringing The Thrills: Behind The Scenes Of Raytheon’s Epcot Ride

October 27, 2014 7:00 AM

Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

This article is supplied by Raytheon

The team of Disney Imagineers huddled with a Raytheon brain trust to work through a perplexing problem.

The engineers, developing a thrill-ride simulator for Epcot, had managed to make a realistic roller coaster and bobsled, but the attraction’s third option – the flight of a jet – wasn’t feeling quite right.

What it needed was some sort of track, a visual cue to make the onscreen action match the motions of the giant robotic arm that swings riders around.

“The simulator is a fine-tuned machine. If riders become out of sync with the visuals for even a fraction of a second, the experience would cease to be as realistic as possible,” said Raytheon engineer Scott Lynde, who worked on the team.

Their solution: Create a companion jet that riders would chase through airborne hoops scattered throughout the digital sky, adding drama and excitement to each turn.

“Having riders chase another jet through obstacles allows them to visualize the next turn, allowing their brain to sync with the simulator for an immersive experience,” said Lynde, a project manager in Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business.

The jet simulation continues to wow the crowds as the ride, Sum of All Thrills, celebrates its fifth anniversary. The attraction has drawn more than 2.4 million riders while opening their eyes to the power of math and science.

Raytheon, a longtime supporter of education in science, technology, engineering and math, created Sum of All Thrills to show the real-life application of concepts such as angles, velocity and kinetic energy.

“People don’t just see it as a ride, they appreciate it for what it teaches and its ability to show kids that math is fun,” Lynde said. “I have seen kids point out concepts in the ride to their parents because they were learning about them in school. For them, this created a spark.”

The development of the ride took nearly two years of collaborative design and prototyping with Disney Imagineers.

In keeping with Disney tradition, they gave the ride an exquisite level of detail. Mathematical symbols are hidden on the walls around the ride. A Mickey Mouse silhouette appears for a split second in the clouds of the jet simulation. A character in the pre-ride video is named Spencer – a nod to Raytheon engineer Percy Spencer, credited as the inventor of the microwave oven.

Another bonus: Riders can take their designs home with them. A special code allows riders to replay their creations online, while a separate ride-designing feature on the site lets those who haven’t visited the park to get in on the fun.

Raytheon engineers and scientists visit Sum of All Thrills every year to share their passion for math and science with park guests. Earlier this year, the company hosted “Science Thrills Live,” a theater show featuring science experiments, during National Engineers Week.

 

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