Most of us come to college with the goal of one day getting the job of our dreams, but when your dream job is to engineer roller coasters, that search can get a little more difficult. Enter Penn State’s Theme Park Engineering Club (TPEG), which aims to make students’ career dreams come true and have an awesome time doing it.
TPEG gives members an opportunity to get a head start on their career search by connecting them with professionals in the theme park industry. The club also allows for students to work on various engineering and design projects and sends members to professional conferences across the country. Though the club recruits students who hope to work in the theme park engineering industry, all are welcome. In fact, TPEG’s main goal is to inspire students to explore as many different jobs as possible.
“We do a lot of different things in the club because we’ve got a lot of different people,” said TPEG Vice President Manny Esteves. “We help members who want to design or build theme parks make contacts and pursue positions that allow them to follow their dreams.”
Student members of the club have been working on real-world engineering projects since the club was founded in 2009. In 2013, Kennywood theme park approved the proposal for students in the club to redesign the headlights on one of the park’s popular roller coasters. The club also takes part in various design projects throughout the year, such as roller coaster simulation and 3D visualization work. Members also take projects assigned in class and develop them even further using new online tools they get to try in TPEG.
For members like Esteves, TPEG played a key role in helping spark more opportunities than they ever could have imagined. Early on in his college career, Esteves accompanied the club to Erie, PA to watch the pilot episode of a Travel Channel show that revamped old theme parks. Esteves expected nothing more than a behind-the-scenes look at a cool project, but the host of the show ended up offering Esteves an internship to build vehicles for a new theme park in China. Esteves knows that if it weren’t for his involvement in the club, opportunities such as the one he received in Erie would have been unheard of.
“Now, three years later, I’ve built seven major theme park attractions and finished an internship with Walt Disney Imagineering,” Esteves said. “It’s so crazy how things work out like that, but I know if it weren’t for this group I wouldn’t have been able to live my dream.”
But make no mistake — while career hunting is no joke, TPEG also works to show students how fun the theme park industry can be. The club takes trips throughout the year to various parks across the country, including Cedar Point and Knoebels, where members get an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes. TPEG also plans to travel to New York City this spring to explore the inner workings of venues like Broadway and Coney Island.
TPEG also gets involved in its fair share of fun projects right here on campus. “[We take park in] the Haunted House project every year that the Forensic Club runs, and we have had great success planning and designing rooms for the house the past couple years,” said freshman member Tyler Demyan.
But above all, the best part of TPEG is the close relationships that come with membership. There is a lot of work that goes into completing projects and pursuing their goals, but members of the club know they have their TPEG family supporting them along the way.
“As cliché as it sounds, everyone is in the same boat as far as workloads go, so we all come to forget about the outside world for a little bit,” Demyan said.
TPEG strives to foster connections that will last a lifetime. From working on longterm projects together to traveling across the country, TPEG members have the opportunity to collaborate with students who share many of the same goals they do. Various alumni members of the club also work to keep in contact with students and help current members achieve their goals.
“We’ve had many people whom I’ve never met that became involved with the club some years ago. And they’re still involved with the club — they reach out to us newer members and share their experiences,” Demyan said.
No matter what career they end up choosing, students in TPEG know they at least have a foot in the door. The hope is that students will be able to seize opportunities they didn’t even know existed.
“My favorite part about the experience is that the group gives you an opportunity to do and try things you’ve never done before,” Esteves said. “I’ve gotten to see things very few other people get to see in themed entertainment. I get to go to parks I never would’ve gone to on my own, and I meet amazing people along the way.”