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Engineering juniors John Nappo, Folasade Oba and Emre Tanirgan and College junior Gabrielle Patterson are currently in Glendale, California for the final round of the Disney Imaginations Design competition

Credit: Gary Krueger , Copyright to Disney

Four Penn juniors are redesigning Istanbul.

Team Ke?if — the Turkish word meaning “discovery” — is one of six finalists for Walt Disney Imagineering’s Imaginations competition. Disney Imagineering — the design and development arm of the Walt Disney Company responsible for constructing Disney parks and resorts — will announce the winner on Jan. 31.

Engineering juniors John Nappo, Folasade Oba and Emre Tanirgan and College junior Gabrielle Patterson are currently in Glendale, California for the final round of the competition, which ends on Friday. They will have 15 minutes to present their idea along with visual aids, like a 3-D model, video clips and animations.

This year, the competition asked teams to submit plans to redesign a current city, incorporating creative features similar to amusement parks to give the urban center a more fun, whimsical feel.

Team Ke?if is transfiguring Istanbul, Turkey, focusing on adding to pre-existing unique aspects of the city such as Bosphorus Strait – a strait that forms the boundary between Europe and Asia – and the Bosphorus Bridge, one of the bridges connecting the two continents.

After considering several options, the team decided to use Istanbul because Tanirgan, who is from Turkey, is very familiar with the city’s layout and major landmarks.

“It’s a very unique city particularly conducive to getting people to interact in a meaningful way,” said Nappo. With this in mind, their goal was to allow residents and visitors to directly interact with Istanbul, rather than passively observe it.

Their first idea allows people to explore Istanbul with a cell phone application, using a special token to receive a new snapshot of the city every week. The team also designed orb structures that would float along the Bosphorus Strait with projected images that change based on the reactions of passersby. Their new “bridge display” is another interactive feature that transforms the ferry ride on the Bosphorus Strait into a personalized experience of the city.

“I wanted this [redesign] to be permanent, to feel that it is part of the city,” said Nappo. If his team’s plans were actually to be implemented in Istanbul, he said, “I want people to react, ‘Wow, my life is better off now.’”

Team Ke?if started mapping out their road to Disney more than a year ago. In the midst of casual conversations, the four friends identified their common interest in Disney and decided to participate in the Imaginations competition as a team.

The team spent a lot of time coming up with creative thoughts and discussing the “ideation” process. Despite the fact that three of the four team members are engineers, Oba said they worked hard to consider the big picture before delving into the technical details.

“Each [team member] brought something cool to the table,” Tanirgan said. “It was interesting to see all these disciplines combined.”

Before heading out to California, the team had high expectations for the competition. Tanirgan said he was excited to see what the other teams came up with, and Oba added that they will finally get the chance to meet their mentors, previous competition participants who had been advising the team over email throughout their preparations.

Besides the competition itself, the team members are also enthusiastic to have the Disneyland experience, getting the chance to “have a glimpse behind the magic,” Patterson said.

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