Living the Dream

Engineering student fulfills fantasy at Disney Worlddisney-world-summer

Natalie Reyes, a graduate of mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois, shows that the variables of gender, age, and setting don’t have to matter when it comes to following your dreams. Even if that dream is one that every kid has when they’re young.

Reyes now works at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., as Ride Mechanical Engineer with the Design and Engineering Team that services the network of parks and resorts. Ever wonder what goes on behind the magic? How all the animations and lights that define the park’s mystique work? It has more to do with the combustion and crankshafts in Natalie’s coursework than Mickey and Minnie.

The Class of 2013 graduate specializes in a variety of machine design and analysis projects at the park, working to ensure the functions and reliability of many of the world-renowned rides, writes Christina Oehler, of the University of Illinois’ MechSE Communications department. In simpler terms: you can’t ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad unless everything checks out with Reyes.

The engineers blend creativity with technology to help create innovative, “out-of-this-world” entertainment experiences, per the Disney website. Mechanical engineers use design skills to perform maintenance on rides and ensure their durability. Design-specific roles require thorough engineering diagnostic skills and knowledge of materials and manufacturing processes, such as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and vibration. It also builds experience in the design of commercial and industrial HVAC and mechanical systems. Comprehensive knowledge of codes and standards is necessary, as well.

In her junior year of college, Reyes was accepted for an internship at Walt Disney World with the Quality Engineering team, and later received two more internships there, including one at the Sustaining Engineering team at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and another with the Ride Mechanical Engineering team. She was hired to join the Walt Disney World staff in January 2014, giving her an additional 16 months of work experience that she says jumpstarted her career. As Natalie’s career path proves…you don’t have to wait until you have kids to return to the Magic Kingdom.

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