A pair of 2014 Walsh Jesuit High School graduates were recently part of a team of collegians whose concept project finished third out of more than 300 entries in the 2017 Walt Disney Imagineering Imaginations Design Competition.

Casey Liptak, of Hudson, attends Miami University. Sarah Miholer, a Carnegi Mellon student, is from Silver Lake. The two teamed up with Miami University student Erin Socha to create "Niihka: A New Tradition," a concept to create an outdoor space that celebrates the Myaamiaki Indian culture.

According to Liptak, the Myaamiaki tribe once inhabited the land on which Miami University was founded.

"It was pretty exciting," according to Liptak who is majoring in interior design with a minor in graphic design.

For their finish, the team was given a trophy with their names engraved.

However Liptak said the reward goes beyond the trophy.

"Just the recognition from the university and this competition in general is a great resume and portfolio builder," she said.

The project assignment was to create an outdoor space on your university campus, Liptak said.

"So going off of that, Miami University was founded on the Myaamiaki tribe's land and today there is a very close relationship between the tribe and the university," she said. "We thought what a great way to bring the ties of the tribe back to the university community and be able to educate our students on the tribe."

According to Liptak, the Myaamiaki tribe has a thriving educational community.

"We really wanted to display that and show the history of the tribe, but also show that they are still a people today," Liptak added.

Two sacred objects to the tribe were incorporated into the concept -- the turtle and crane.

"The shape of the space was inspired from the turtle shell while a variety of things represent the crane throughout the concept," Liptak said.

The team worked closely with tribal members, she said.

"A big part of our project was to make sure this could actually be built," Liptak said.

The concept would contain a glass roof with a display of constellations and the stories which go with them, she added.

Miholer, who is majoring in mechanical engineering, said she was ecstatic with how the project turned out.

"Casey, Erin, and I all worked extremely well together, and it showed in our final product," Miholer said. "Our project stood out from the rest in that we did not make up the story our space told. We researched the story of the Miami Tribe and told that story through our space."

Miholer said the team was "happy to design a space to celebrate the history and educate the space's guests of the traditions of the Miami Tribe."

Miholer enjoyed the entire process.

"I had never gone through all of the phases of Blue Sky to design. I enjoyed working on the aspects that I worked on. Being the engineer on the team, I focused on the feasibility of our ideas, and made sure that everything would work properly if the designs would be implemented."

After the team found out it was in the finals, the stress set in, Miholer said.

"That did not mean we enjoyed the work any less, though. It made us more critical of our work, and we executed our final project to the best of our abilities," Miholer said. "I think we did the absolute best that we could have. We put our heart and soul into this project, and I think it showed."

Miholer said she grew up loving Disney.

"I wanted and still want to help create those parks in which I have so many fond memories," Miholer said. "The Imaginations competition was a great opportunity to get my foot in the door at Walt Disney Imagineering."

Twenty-one students from six teams were finalists, according to Disney. In addition to the three top-placed teams, the other finalist teams came from Howard University, Savannah College of Art and Design and University of California, San Diego. The top placed team is awarded a cash prize, and an additional $1,000 grant was awarded to its sponsoring university.

The six teams of finalists visited Walt Disney Imagineering's main campus in Glendale, Calif., from Jan. 23 to 27 to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind the scenes where Disney magic is created, and interview for paid internships during their visit.

A panel of Imagineering judges applied the same criteria to the entries as they would to their own work, including the team's ability to collaborate across different disciplines and backgrounds; the mastery of their individual skills; whether the project provides an engaging guest experience; the ability to tell a compelling and engaging story; and knowledge and passion for the Disney brand and Walt Disney Imagineering.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com