2024 Open Qualifying

Welcome to new teams and returning teams, making a record number of teams entered in the 2024 Open Qualifying challenge for TMTDC: Toronto Metropolitan University Thrill Design Competition. We’re currently reviewing the submissions and will send out invitations by the start of August. From there it is a whirlwind of preparation.

Early August: teams select the members best suited for the challenge(s) they are invited to tackle, and complete the registration admin process

August through October: we offer some webinars on what to expect (valuable for first-time participants even on experienced teams), including how to pitch (how to structure the time-limited presentation) and new this year, a webinar on the design process. The last webinar before the competition covers the all-important “what to pack” and other logistics.

Good to know: about 20% of the 600-ish alumni of the competition have had internships or other employment with Universal Destinations and Experiences, plus many have worked at other industry operators, manufacturers, and suppliers.

First Fridays at Fusion Studio (October 2023)

Lab director Dr. Kathryn Woodcock presented at the Purdue University Fusion Studio for their “first Friday” (Zoom) session in October 2023, talking about participation in amusement attractions and lessons for eligibility analysis and inclusive design of immersive entertainment using human factors engineering (and what your audience with disabilities would like to know!)

Thrill Design Competition

The competition originally known as the “Ryerson Invitational Thrill Design Competition” was renamed with the renaming of the University, and is now known as the Toronto Metropolitan University Thrill Design Competition. In addition, in 2022, we introduced an Open Qualifying (OQ) competition in the summer, to select teams for invitation to the TMU Thrill Design Invitational, taking place at Universal Orlando Resort.

Photo shows TMTDI competitors at Universal's Rising Star venue standing on stage and in front of the stage. Some teams are clustered together wearing team polos. A large monitor displaying a competition background slide appears in the middle of the group.
TMTDI competitors and production team, 2022

In 2023, we retained the same two-stage format. A record nineteen teams received invitations for two or three challenges each, based on their Open Qualifying submissions. Challenges included specific assignments related to mechanical design, safety and accessibility, interactive attractions, and several attractions design challenges involving NoLimits model, complex story, technology, and environmental constraints. A completely fictional requirement to replace an assigned area with new attractions unified the multiple challenges.

Participants checked in at a Universal Orlando resort on November 8, for a welcome ahead of the opening session on November 9. Participants had a facilitated park walk before reconvening for presentation of selected OQ projects and reveal of the seven challenges. While the NoLimits challenge was partially disclosed to teams ahead of time, some changes and additional requirements were included at the competition reveal. Following the reveal, teams determine their preparation strategies and scatter, into the parks for more research, or back to their hotel headquarters for design preparation.

Fortunately, the competition swag includes an unlimited beverage mug, because teams dug in for some late night work and early morning presentations. The first challenge was presented the next morning, November 10, and another that afternoon. Three challenges were presented on November 11, and two more on November 12. Juries of industry experts from Universal Creative, Universal Destinations and Experiences, and manufacturers and suppliers provide feedback and assessment of the presentations.

Participants were also registered for the IAAPA Expo, which kicked off 4km down the road on November 13, helping pave the path for future attractions industry careers in a variety of professions.

Undergraduate and graduate students may participate if they are full time students at the same university, including its affiliated colleges, which does not already have a team, and meet other eligibility criteria.

The 2024 Competition keeps the same general format, taking place 14 – 17 November 2024 at Universal Orlando Resort. IAAPA Expo begins November 18.

Teams that missed the 2024 Open Qualifying are invited to waitlist for the 2025 announcement. Just drop us a line! Interested clubs can contact Dr. Woodcock [kathryn DOT woodcock AT torontomu DOT ca] for information.

Thrill Club project demo

Shortly after the Thrill Club began developing a scale model dark ride for its future activities, we had the opportunity to offer a demonstration for an audience of amusement ride safety inspectors, owners, and others at the annual TSSA Ride Safety Seminar in Niagara Falls. A smaller scale first draft model was quickly completed and packed for transport! Club president Jake Fulton attended the safety seminar and enjoyed great professional networking and continuing education hours as well.

Jake Fulton in dark hoodie and conference name tag, stands next to small scale model of a tracked ride, discussing it with four males in similar apparel. Other event participants are seen in the background, in the foyer of a conference seminar room.

Guest speaker

Guest speaker John Riggleman in shirt and khakis, sits in chair with legs crossed. To his right is moderator Ruby Aguayo, in dark slacks and blouse. To his left is sign language interpreter. Photo taken over the shoulder of audience members.
TMU Thrill Club guest speaker John Riggleman is interviewed about careers in themed entertainment

April 3 was an opportunity for TMU and local students interested in theme park careers to learn from industry veteran John Riggleman as he visited Toronto.


Planning for IAAPA Expo, taking place in Orlando in November 2021, continues. Dr. Woodcock is joining a panel with Danielle Heffernan, of Cedar Fair, moderated by Charlie Wickham, grad student from Iowa State U, on industry-academia cooperation for themed entertainment. Check the IAAPA website for registration details. Early registration discount expires 23 September.