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The technical magic behind theme parks explored by students

Posted: 19 October 2023

IT students from West Nottinghamshire College have discovered how their skills and knowledge could take them into careers which make the magic that goes into theme park rides and entertainment across the world.

The group welcomed Cathrin Winsor, projects director from Derby-based Katapult Ltd, who showcased the complexities of IT hardware and software which is used at some of the biggest attractions such as Warner Bros Discovery, Legoland Parks, Alton Towers and Drayton Manor Resort.

Cathrin has a wealth of experience in her role with the company which designs themed attractions and experiences for visitors across the world.

This includes a fully-themed guest experience in CBeebies Land at Alton Towers which provides an immersive and engaging photo capture unit for children to have their photograph taken on a green screen with their favourite characters.

Katapult also provides immersive family entertainment centres including the new Ferrari Experience dining concept. This is a completely new way for enthusiasts of the brand to interact and connect to the glamour and excitement of the Ferrari brand.

Cathrin worked with the Advanced Diploma in IT Level 3 group to look at how important project management is when creating immersive entertainment concepts which include audio, visual and special effects.

The class watched a video of The Secret Live of Pets Off - The Leash ride, which is based at Universal Studios in Hollywood, and features 64 animatronics. The class then worked in groups to concentrate on how a company might project manage the concept and building of such a ride.

They discussed different job roles, such as sound manager, video engineer, rides manager, animatronic manager, architects and testing engineers. The groups then created a list of all the components required in the ride and organised them into groups or hierarchies to create a work breakdown structure.

A question and answer session followed where students could ask Cathrin more about how IT is embedded into themed rides and attractions. Examples include lighting, control systems and high-quality audio, whether that’s in a full show or on public announcement systems for emergencies.

Information Technology Level 3 student Marley Garton, 18, said: “The session with Cathrin was great because we are currently working on project management. Getting real world examples from the sector and a company like Katapult means we’re getting lots of information about how they work with such hardware and software.

“Now we’re looking at this kind of planning in our lessons it’s helping us to look at the various planning options.”

Cathrin Winsor, projects director at Katapult Ltd said: “We’ve done a range of project work with Cartoon Network, Warner Bros, Ferrari and others. We work both front-facing and desk-based with clients, depending on where we are at in the project life-cycle.

“In the beginning we’re very involved in setting-up the concept for projects. We are regularly on site for visits and meetings with stakeholders. When it comes to artwork and concept designs, this tends to be done from the desk.

“We go to the site for executive production and art direction on-site while projects are being built. It’s a lot of fun.

“My advice for today’s students would be to find something you enjoy doing. We spend a lot of time at work, so getting into project management and IT work that you find fulfilling, will have a measurable impact on your life.”

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Rebecca Howarth
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