Blog & Events

Engineering and Cirque du Soleil

May 20, 3013

By Ana Dison, WEP Student Success Director

Picture of Ana Dison smilingWhile attending the 2013 American College Personnel Association (ACA) Conference in Las Vegas, I met up with friends and had a free night to do dinner and a show. We picked Love, featuring the Beatles music.  It was a fantastic performance!  If you've never been to a Cirque du Soleil show, it mixes acrobatics, music, dancing, acting, computer generated graphics, lights and many other techniques to heighten your senses.

This show was presented in a round theater with performers coming from all angles, so you were constantly looking around.  As I was sitting enjoying the music and performers, my mind started thinking about the amazing engineering applications involved in the show, starting with the stage that had to have had many hydraulic features. It lifted and lowered, converting the round stage into a variety of shapes. Props were lifted and lowered as well, like the half-moon ramps for the skater guys that did crazy tricks. Some of the acts used robots to bring in elements like a train with had to see it!

Then, I thought about the suspension system overheard bringing in props, and the performers that came down from the ceiling. This mechanism was on a track and was computerized, so that performers could come in from different angles. I was amazed by the creative engineering applications that we just never think about.  The light show, computer graphics, robotics, ceiling suspension and staging were dramatic, but think about the coordination (i.e. project management/coordination) required to get it all right! There has to be a team of engineers working on these shows, combining creativity and engineering!

So, I guess I can call myself an honorary engineer.  I certainly am amazed and in awe of the possibilities with engineering!

Ana is the Student Success Director with the Women in Engineering Program. She coordinates current student programs, including the First Year Initiative, Leadership Seminar, Graduates Linked with Undergraduates in Engineering (GLUE), and the Women In the Second year of Engineering (WISE) program.