On Friday, months of planning, preparing, and practicing by the Apex students was put to the test when they presented their ride ideas, portfolios, and models to staff from Thinkwell, the company that designs rides for Universal Studios.
The third quarter project starts immediately after winter break. Groups are formed, companies are named, and each member of the group is given a job and a title. In the following months, students will create a portfolio, a company website, a 10 to 20 minute presentation, a model of their ride vehicle, a model of their ride, a reasonable budget, various displays, and souvenirs that go along with their ride idea.
Groups are allowed to base their rides off movies or books or can create completely original concepts. They must include details like ride speed, vehicle occupancy and activities for guests to do while they are waiting in line.
Part way through the design process, groups meet with a local ride design company to help flesh out their ideas and work through any roadblocks, These students are challenged with creating realistic rides while still doing their school work in a fraction of the time it takes professionals to do the same.
Two days before the big event, the Apex students walked down to the University of La Verne and practiced their presentations in front of community leaders, business owners and volunteers. Two years ago, the Chief Financial Officer for Universal Studios was one of the audience members, so even though it is a practice presentation, all the groups try to put their best foot forward.
Thursday was spent fixing any issues that arose during the practice presentations and getting ready for that evening’s parent convention. There, they are given the opportunity to flawlessly perfect their pitch and get practice answering random screwball questions that might be thrown their way on Friday. From 6pm to 8pm, student’s practice drawing people in and explaining every aspect of their project. Afterwards, tired freshmen go home and try to mentally prepare for the day where their months of hard work will be put to the test.
Friday comes and the Apex students put on their business attire for the last time, After wearing it for the past two days, it is familiar and signals that today is the day. By the start of third period, all the Apex students have walked up to city hall and retrieved their displays from the community center. The Thinkwell panel is set up in the conference room and the first group is frantically trying to relax, The second group is on deck and doing last minute prep.
Hours later, the Apex students are gathered in the main meeting room. The winners are announced. Best portfolio, best presentation, best concept. On and on it goes until finally it comes time to announce the big winner. The winner of the fake contract to build a ride for Universal Studios.
This year, the winner was Impact Entertainment for their ride based off of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Their models were flawless and their pitch was nearly perfect. However, no one really loses in the Apex program. Each project offers a chance for personal growth and lifelong memories. In the moment, it can be a stressful and nerve wracking roller coaster of emotions for the freshmen, but after, they realize it is all worth it.