Liberty, MO-- Imagine a high school student already working up designs for amazing new attractions to entertain the millions who go to the world's top amusement parks and theme parks to be wowed. You are picturing this week's Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever. Conner Carr wants to take you for a ride.
On a table in a classroom at Liberty High School sit the innards of last year's Missouri high school state championship project in Animatronics, the technology of building machines that look and move like real humans or animals or bringing inanimate objects to life.
And the creator of that project, junior Conner Carr, starts getting everything to move. Conner's amusing "worm and bird" project with its computerized, synchronized lights and sound and motion and built of special LEGO parts also propelled him to the Technology Student Association national competition in Dallas where he finished in the top 20.
"Really, to be able to do this is pretty awesome," says Conner enthusiastically.
It was a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida when he was a fifth grader that lit a fire in Conner. That place of dreams, he calls it, with its amazing rides and attractions. Conner was especially overwhelmed by a mammoth roller coaster, Expedition Everest, and its 10 foot tall Yeti that swooped down on riders.
"I thought that was just one of the coolest things in the world," says Conner. "I got home and watched a Discovery Channel special on how they built the ride and how they built the Yeti. They showed the Yeti without the skin and fur on it. Just the metal bars and pistons moving up and down with all the wires and I thought that was cooler than seeing it with all the skin and the fur and the mask."
Conner was hooked and he set about learning everything he could about Animatronics. And when he got to Liberty High School, he immersed himself in the science and math courses he needed and in the school's Technology Student Association club, which he leads.
"He's exciting," says Liberty High School Project Lead the Way teacher Mark Blakley of Conner. "He brings a lot of energy to things and he wants to be the best."
Blakley teaches engineering at both Liberty high schools and guides Conner and other students in their high-tech projects.
"(Conner) is very highly motivated," says Blakley. "When you have that in a student, when that's part of of his character, there's no limit to where you are going."
Conner's already making plans on how to turn this technology study into a fun, exciting career in the amusement park and theme park industry.
"For me, my dream job would ultimately be, like when I went to Disney, Disney Imagineering is just something that's always been right there in my head," says Conner.
And how would it be for Conner to one day have thousands, perhaps millions, experiencing awesome rides and attractions he'd help create?
"That would be unbelievable," says Conner excitedly. "Maybe I'll go stand in line with them and start explaining it to somebody and surprise them."
And inspire yet another generation of kids to bring machines to life for the enjoyment of all.
Conner already is deep into developing his Animatronics project for this spring's state and national Technology Student Association competitions. The nationals will be in Nashville in June.
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