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February 13, 2014

Raytheon celebrates National Engineers Week with "Science Thrills Live" shows at Epcot

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No matter what your kids tell you, science can be fun, and one of Epcot's corporate sponsors, Raytheon, is offering theme-park guests the opportunity to discover this for themselves during special events planned for National Engineers Week, which is Feb. 17 to 21.

Raytheon, an aerospace and defense contractor that employs state-of-the-art electronics and communications systems for government and commercial projects, sponsors Sum of All Thrills in the theme park. This attraction allows guests to digitally design their own roller coasters and then experience a simulated ride in them.

But during National Engineers Week, the company also will conduct an interactive stage show called "Science Thrills Live" to demonstrate to Walt Disney World guests the exciting ways that science can be applied to objects in our everyday lives. Guests will learn about nucleation-triggered eruptions, thermoplastic recycling, and the conservation of angular momentum by watching soda explode and milk jugs melt and participating in a giant tug of war. The experiments will be conducted by actual scientists, and the show features Erika Ebbel, the host of "The Dr. Erika Show," and the founder of Science from Scientists.

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Erika Ebbel teaches students who have donned safety goggles about math and science.

The 20-minute shows are free and take place each day at 11 a.m. and 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. at the Innoventions Engineers Lab inside Innoventions West. Raytheon representatives will be handing out free T-shirts on Monday and sling bags on Tuesday through Friday.

Last year during National Engineers Week, Raytheon hosted family friendly sessions called "Coaster Crafters" that taught kids the basic physics behind designing roller coasters. You can read about it and see photos on my blog post here.

Can't make it to Innoventions at Epcot? There is an online version of Sum of All Thrills that allows users to create a roller coaster ride, pilot a jet fighter or race a bobsled -- and then relive their custom ride over and over again. A design table similar to the one used at Walt Disney World provides all the virtual tools users need to experience their own thrill ride and learn about some of the scientific concepts that make the attractions so exciting.

In another community effort to nurture interest in math and science, Raytheon also hosts the MATHCOUNTS national competition at Walt Disney World each spring. The contest brings together the nation's top middle-school students who have excelled at math. Raytheon's educational efforts are grouped under the MathMovesU initiative, which includes scholarships, competitions, interactive learning programs and tutoring.



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April 6, 2013

Hands-on fun with Innoventions attractions can make Epcot guests feel like superheroes

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Sometimes, there's nothing more magical than hands-on interaction fun with a Disney Parks attraction, and that's the idea behind the Innoventions concept at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. And this week brought news about one of Marvel Comics's biggest superheroes making his ironclad effect on the West Coast.

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In California, the collection of interactive displays -- modeled after the World's Fair -- at Disneyland will gain an Iron Man exhibit on April 13 -- and will, of course, promote the upcoming the upcoming "Iron Man 3" movie. Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries will include Tony Stark's Hall of Armor exhibit and a simulator that will allow guests to fire repulsor blasts just like Iron Man.

As popular as that promotional display is certain to be with theme-park guests, what would be a real blast is if rumors of a Stark Expo overlay of the entire Innoventions attraction comes to pass. MovieFone reports that the upcoming Iron Man Tech exhibit actually is a beta test for the overhaul of the site and, if it is successful, construction could begin in 2014.

My family -- and many others, I'm sure -- would like to see a Stark Expo, or even just Iron Man Tech, come to Orlando. Unfortunately, it won't happen because of the Marvel licensing pact with Universal Studios Orlando. Iron Man will only be seen at Walt Disney World in merchandise and the new monorail wrap.

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Still, our two Innoventions pavilions here in Orlando have a lot of fun to offer kids, even if the exhibits don't revolve around a popular super hero who is part of the Avengers project and routinely saves the world.

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At Innoventions West, families with elementary-school-age children won't want to miss The Great Piggy Bank Adventure and Where's the Fire? exhibitions. The Great Piggy Bank Adventure teaches children the importance of saving money and planning for the future with concrete examples, and guests actually carry their piggy banks from game to game. Where's the Fire? includes an interactive game house, where teams search to find the fire hazards in their home, and the Play It Safe Maze, where children 5 years old and younger can learn how to exit their homes in a fire. Both of the exhibits are so entertaining that kids may not even realize they are absorbing valuable information.

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Innoventions West also contains a video game section, where kids can play the latest games for free, and a character meet-and-greet area exclusively for Disney Visa card members. (See a full description of Innoventions on the AllEars.Net resource page.)

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At Innoventions East, roller coaster fans shouldn't pass up the opportunity to design their own attraction and ride it virtually at The Sum of All Thrills. This is not an attraction for the faint-of-heart, and there routinely are long lines attesting to its popularity. Test the Limits Lab is good, clean fun for all ages and temperaments -- though those needing to work out a little frustration may find the experience more cathartic than others. The test lab's six kiosks allow Epcot visitors to get a hands-on feel for how UL annually tests the safety of more than 18,000 products. Guided by cast members, guests can "implode" television screens, put vacuum cleaners through their paces and even drop 55-gallon barrels on firefighters' helmets to see whether they can withstand the impact.

Sure, the Walt Disney World Innoventions attractions might not feature the latest technological creations from Stark Industries, but the idea behind them are the same here as what guests at Disneyland enjoy. The hands-on fun is as entertaining as it is educational. And, who knows? After successfully saving money, escaping a fire or even riding a roller coaster of their own creation, the participants might even feel like superheroes in a way.

September 27, 2012

New Segway tour gives guests unique views of Epcot

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I took my first-ever ride on a Segway through the crowds at Epcot this week, and I have to say, the prospect was a little daunting. I mean, how many guests can you clip before they expel you from the theme park?

Rest assured, though, that safety is a top priority at Walt Disney World, so cast members are not going to allow you to do anything too risky.

I was signed up to take Epcot's new "Keep Moving Forward: See the World, Share the Dream Segway Tour," which debuted on Sept. 17. This guided tour starts in Future World and then covers most of World Showcase in the three-hour experience. Beginning Sept. 28, times for the three-hour experience shift because of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival; you may start at 7:45, 8:30 and 9 a.m.

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My fellow travelers and I met at Guest Relations inside the park, where we checked in, signed a waiver and were asked to select from two breakfast options, which would be ready for us after our training. The offerings include a full breakfast platter or lighter fare with a pastry and fruit, plus a beverage of your choice. I was very happy to see plenty of caffeinated options for my morning commute.

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Afterward, it was time to head over to Innoventions West for our training. The seven of us first were fitted with helmets, and we listened to a cast member explain the basic operations of the Segway. Then, we had to face the thrill (or our fears, depending on how you look at it) and get on the two-wheeled vehicles.

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The Segways really are not complicated to operate, but you do have to get used to balancing on a moving platform, which at first is harder than it looks. You ride forward by pressing your toes down and leaning your whole body ahead, and you stop by leaning back on your heels. (When you book this tour, the reservationist will tell you to wear flat-bottom shoes.)

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Epcot's Segways are programmed to only go 6 miles per hour, so you're not going to be racing the monorail, but you still can get hurt if you're not paying full attention and remaining balanced. For this reason, guests riding on Segways are not allowed to have anything in their hands, such as cameras or cell phones, or any purses, backpacks or fanny packs on their bodies. There is a pouch attached to the front of the Segway where guests are asked to put such items, and the weight limit for them is 10 pounds.

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During the practice session, we learned to propel ourselves backward and forward, go up and down ramps, duck under drooping tree branches, and even complete an obstacle course with cones. Not one of us fell off the Segways or crashed them into anything. Off to a good start!

Next, our tour guide led our parade of Segways out into Epcot and over to The Land pavilion for breakfast. It was exhilarating and at the same time nerve-wracking. Remember the first time you drove a car, and you worried about everything that could go wrong? I just knew some little princess was going to jump in front of my Segway and I wouldn't be able to stop in time. Of course, that never happened because the two guides with our group helped warn guests about our approach.

We rode our Segways "backstage" and parked by the door to The Land that is near the restrooms on the ground floor. We were taken to a reserved seating area and served the breakfasts we ordered. At first, I hoped we could skip the breakfast so we would have more time to ride, but I realized that after the practice, our legs and feet already were a bit stiff and sore and we needed a break. The previous Epcot tour did not include breakfast, though the price was the same.

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About forty minutes later, our guide gave us headsets and we got ready to tour World Showcase. The headsets are another new addition and really worked well. They were small enough to be unobtrusive and they allowed the participants even at the back of the line to hear the guide. The tour itself takes about an hour, beginning at the Mexico pavilion and traveling around to Canada. The guide points out interesting historical facts and details about Walt Disney's plans for each country in World Showcase. In addition, the tour is designed to allow riders to test their newfound skills with such activities as "slaloming" through the columns in Italy, navigating the winding path through the miniature village in Germany and circling through The American Adventure gardens.

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The guide takes everyone to one location for a quick stop and will take photos of guests on their Segways, if they wish. All too soon, it's time to return to Innoventions West and park the Segways.

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"Keep Moving Forward: See the World, Share the Dream Segway Tour" is $99 plus tax. Annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members will receive a 15 percent discount and Disney Visa Card members get a 20 percent discount.

This Segway tour is limited to those 16 and older. (Guardians must be present for ages 16 and 17.) Participants also must weigh between 100 and 250 pounds and are required to sign a waiver. To book, call (407) WDW-TOUR (939-8687).


June 19, 2012

Epcot's VISION house: A Disney World attraction for adults, older kids

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The recent rain in Central Florida finally helped me persuade my kids and their friends to check out VISION house, a new attraction in Epcot's Innoventions that opened on Earth Day this year. Like many younger guests, they didn't want to take time away from rides and favorite activities for a tour, but the wet weather forced our group to slow down a bit and try something new.

VISION house replaces the House of the Innoventions, both showplaces for new and updated products for the home. The concept behind VISION house is sustainable living through environmentally friendly building choices.

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The experience begins outside the house, where there is a clubhouse for little kids to play while their parents are waiting for a tour. You also can walk around the side of the house and see different aspects, including the family's electric hybrid car parked outside.

The first thing we noticed when we entered the house was the openness and lack of barriers. Unlike with its predecessor, VISION house is set up so guests are welcome to touch the fixtures and finishes of the home. Our group of kids took that invitation seriously, trying out the beds while the hostess explained the rooms' features. Another difference is that the innovative home systems and products are available now; they're not concepts envisioned for the future.

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The five elementary school children in our group were most fascinated with the futuristic toilet in the master bathroom. They are of the age, of course, when bathroom humor runs rampant, especially among the boys. I have to agree with them, though, because the high-tech toilet from Kohler is pretty awesome. It has its own remote-control system, and users can warm their feet and seat, listen to music and raise the seat without touching it.

Overall, though, this attraction really is aimed at adults who, as homeowners, have a vested interest in the products or, perhaps, teens or college students studying home design or architecture. My kids didn't care that an electronic system can change the temperature of the house and its lights remotely, but my ears perked up at the possibility of saving on the electric bill.

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Still, even for those guests who would like to follow the practices of green building, the costs can be prohibitive. Both options -- starting from scratch or retrofitting a home with many of these products -- are expensive. I did take to heart the hostess's suggestion that recycling furniture by passing it down through the family "reduces strain on resources and is a great source of family memories." Like the Monteverdes, the fictional family who lives in the VISION house, the Fords eat at a kitchen table that came from my childhood home.

To read more about the opening of VISION house, see Deb's blog post.

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About Innoventions

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Innoventions category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Holidays Around the World is the previous category.

kidsHeritage, Inc. is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.