Club advisors David Acciardo, Zach Davies, Sarah Pudlo and Rebekah Vecchiarell share their love for roller coasters with other students.  Photo contributed by Rebekah Vecchiarell.

The ticking of the rollercoaster causes your hands to grip tightly to the protective bar as you slowly ascend into the air. You wait at the top. Your heart beating, uncertain of what’s next, and then…you drop. Your stomach rises into your throat as your zoom down, the quick turns and falls sends a rush of adrenaline through your veins. 

People love theme parks and rides. People love the smell of vendors selling sweet, greasy food, they love walking around fictional streets living as though we’re in a movie. But do you ever stop to think, who creates this? Or could this even be a job? 

Meet the Theme Park Engineering and Design Club, or TPED for short. This club comes up with ideas for new rides, theme parks and more, and anyone can join. 

“All majors are welcome,” said TPED secretary Rebekah Vecchiarelli. “It’s a really diverse club. We have had many different majors from physics and engineering and even film students. We would love art majors!” 

TPED Treasurer Sarah Pudlo said she decided to join the club the first time she heard of them. 

“I saw the booth my freshman year at First Night and was like, ‘It’s roller coasters, who wouldn’t want to be in a club about roller coasters?,’” Pudlo said. 

So what does TPED exactly do? Well, the Theme Park Engineering and Design club has two competitions each year, one in the fall and one in the spring, and the members receive a prompt and must work together to design, plan and fulfill this prompt and then prepare to pitch their idea. 

This year’s fall competition is Disney Imagineers.

“Disney gives a prompt and you have two months to compose a theme park and create a slideshow ready to pitch,” said Zach Davies, president and founder of the TPED club. 

Once entered into the Disney Imagineering contest the club waits and if chosen, they pitch the idea to Disney Imagineers themselves. 

“It’s a lot less technical, a lot more about story line,” said Vecchiarelli. 

Spring semester is the Cornell Design Competition, and theme park design clubs from all around the country participate. 

“It’s very technical, they want specific details,” said Pudlo. “They usually give you a budget and you try not to go over. It really teaches you how to take into account how much money goes into creating a park.” 

The club hasn’t won a competition yet, but Vecchiarelli said that improving is always a goal of theirs.  

“Improvement is our main goal,” Vecchiarelli said. “Even if we’re not winning competitions, we are always so proud when we finish a project, because we know we’ve improved from the last one. We want to be proud of what we’ve done as a group, together. We just love what we’ve done.”

The club was created back in 2016 by Davies. 

“I heard about other schools who had it and decided URI needed a club like this,” Davies said. 

TPED has grown from there, now home to approximately 15 members all using their creativity and passion for theme parks to create their own rides. The best part about TPED, according to Davies, is “seeing everybody’s ideas go from their head to the final product. How we have evolved from 2016 to now. We have improved so much, I love seeing the growth and everyone’s love for the industry.” 

While there is lots of planning, designing and engineering going on during meetings, Pudlo says that the best part of the club is the people. 

“Every meeting is just a barrel of laughs,” Pudlo said.

Additionally, TPED does more than just work on roller coasters. They also host activities, such as field trips to actual theme parks and cake decorating contests. 

For many students, like Pudlo, the club has provided them with a great outlet and has inspired many future career paths. 

“I’m hoping after college to get a job with Disney,” Pudlo said. “Mainly to help them build up the theme park industry in China.” 

Although the theme park industry is tough to break into, the club helps with networking and figuring out the field so students can see their passion as a possible career. 

The Theme Park Engineering and Design club meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. at the International Exchange Program House.