STEM & Art Leads to Career in Designing New Test Track Ride at Epcot: An interview with General Motors Design Manager Jeff Mylenek

If you’ve ever experienced the thrill of an amusement park ride with your children, have you ever thought about what it would be like to design them as a career? It’s the job of designers who work at, and with Disney, to create rides that leave lasting impressions on us. Imagineers and lead designers integrate science, technology, engineering, math, and art to create rides that make us want to return to the parks to experience the thrills over and over again.

Disney fans know that this is the week that Walt Disney World’s New FantasyLand opens to the public and along with it, a re-imagined Test Track presented by Chevrolet at Disney’s Epcot Center.

Test Track is one my family’s favorite rides at the park. The thrill of getting in the car and going at high speeds around a track is something that we’re still talking about today so my kids were excited when they heard that I was going to be talking to Jeff Mylenek, Design Manager at General Motors, about his integral role with the new Test Track experience.

Leticia Barr (LB)— Your job is a dream to my 6-year-old son who loves Test Track. Do you have any advice for kids who want to do what you do and how parents can encourage them in such a career?

Jeff Mylenek (JM)— Parents get nervous when kids are into art and not math. My job shows that average people take their talents in drawing and other abilities and take it to the next level as a profession. When I was a kid, I didn’t think that these ideas came from an idea in a person. We didn’t have the Internet. Technology wasn’t there. You could find out about the basics, but careers in industrial design were hard to find out about. Now, hands-on time through rides like Test Track gives people an idea of what the professional career is like and provides a face to the abstract design of this work.

LB— I read that the design collaboration started 18 months ago and the new ride is personal, future-focused and optimistic. Can you tell me more about it?

JM— The basic essence of the ride itself remains the same. Guests get the same visceral experience, but the pre- and post- show has been reimagined. In the original ride, the guest was more of an observer and now they’re involved in the experience of design. The pre-show is the space where you’d wait in anticipation of the ride and now your experience demonstrates what a professional designer does. You see some amazing futuristic concepts before walking into the design studio where you get to design a car, truck, or microvehicle. You get to spend a lot of time designing it, morphing it from sleek to funky, bring the colors to life, and add unique accessories to custom design it.

LB— This is a huge departure from the original ride. What other new technologies will Test Track guests get to experience?

JM— With the design experience, we’re using some cool technology like radio frequency ID (RFID) cards to store your vehicle design and take it through with you through the ride and post-show experience. When you board the ride, you tap the RFID card and it takes your design data and puts it into the vehicle. In the post-ride experience, guests can race their vehicle at driving table, take photos with a full size version, and create a commercial of it, before sending it home to yourself.

LB— As a new father of a 6-month-old, what impact do you hope this ride will have on future generations?

JM— The technology we have now allows us to get people involved and participate while inspiring next generation of artists, designers, and creative people. It allows you to tap into creative juices and imagination and participate with friends and family in a way that you won’t do in a lot of different experiences. One day I can take Jackson through Test Track and he’ll realize that’s what I worked on before he was born. It adds a whole special element to my experience because some day Jack will know I worked on it. I want his experience to be fresh and exciting.

Test Track presented by Chevrolet at Disney’s Epcot Center in Lake Buena Vista, Florida opens on Thursday, December 6.

Image courtesy of General Motors

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