About the Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering

our mission

The Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering connects industry leaders with scholars and practitioners, provides space for development and exploration, and inspires pedagogical innovation at the nexus of engineering and live entertainment.

The Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering will:

  • Raise the academic and professional profile of engineering in live entertainment.
  • Identify, document, develop, and disseminate signature pedagogical approaches that support engineering in live entertainment.
  • Position Purdue University as a national and international leader in innovative and interdisciplinary pedagogical approaches that connect engineering and the arts.

Our History

The Provost’s office at Purdue University officially approved the proposal for the Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering in the spring semester of 2020, creating a new, cross-unit, university center focused on education in entertainment and engineering. The goal was simple, but not easy: solidify Purdue University’s presence as a leader in interdisciplinary education at the nexus of live entertainment and engineering. The design of the Fusion Studio’s leadership structure emphasizes the values and cross-disciplinary nature of the center, with co-directors serving from the College of Engineering and from the College of Liberal Arts.

The Fusion Studio’s origin story began years before, however, with earlier work between the colleges of Liberal Arts and Engineering at Purdue.

The Multidisciplinary Engineering program launched a first-of-its-kind theatre engineering concentration when faculty in engineering and theatre joined forces to make formal the interests of a growing number of students who were attracted to the entertainment industry. This concentration was proposed in 2017, with Dr. Mary Pilotte (then Director of Engineering Education’s Undergraduate Degree Programs and Professor of Engineering Practice) and Rich Dionne (then Assistant Professor of Practice in Theatre, now Associate Professor of Practice and Chair of Theatre in the Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance). This work built on the efforts of previous faculty in engineering and theatre (including Emeritus Chemical Engineering Professor Phil Wankat, Professor of Theatre Rick Thomas, Professor of Theatre Joel Ebarb, and others).

In response to the continued rapid growth of interest by students and industry in the theatre engineering concentration, Dionne and Pilotte hosted a “fly-in” event at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, in July 2018, discussing trends and opportunities at the nexus of live entertainment and engineering. A broad range of attendees representing academic institutions (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michigan Technological University, University of North Carolina-School of the Arts, and University of Nevada Las Vegas) and important companies in the live entertainment industry (iWeiss, Texas Scenic Company, Adirondack Studios, McLaren Engineering, Creative Conners, Hudson Scenic, Shuler Shook, DLR Group, and Electronic Theatre Controls) brought great enthusiasm to the event. The energy and discussions that emerged from this meeting became the impetus for the 2019 Symposium on Education in Entertainment and Engineering and the 2019 Stage Machine Design Competition.

With growth in the theatre engineering concentration at Purdue and the emergence of other entertainment/engineering education efforts on the horizon — including those other academic institutions desiring to launch similar programs — Dionne and Pilotte recognized that Purdue University was positioned to connect faculty with practitioners from across the country and across disciplines to provide resources and guidance — including best practices and pedagogical approaches.

This new, exciting, and innovative community at the convergence of engineering and entertainment industries now lives as The Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering.

The Team

Rich Dionne is an Associate Professor of Practice and technical director in the Department of Theatre in the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance at Purdue University. He specializes in scenery automation and show control systems while also serving as the department’s production manager. He has a passion for both the art of theatre and the science and engineering of making theatre happen.

Prior to coming to Purdue, Rich was the production manager and resident sound designer at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, where he mounted numerous productions at various indoor and outdoor venues, including a nationally-recognized educational touring company. Additionally, he has served as the technical director for Berkshire Theatre Festival, Alpine Theatre Project, Weston Playhouse Theatre Company, and Dorset Theatre Festival, mounting critically-acclaimed productions including The Whipping ManBarefoot in the ParkAmadeusNight of the IguanaAvenue QThe Illusion, and Death of a Salesman. Rich’s book, Project Planning for the Stage: Tools and Techniques for Managing Extraordinary Performances, focuses on the application of project planning techniques for theatrical production, was recently published by Southern Illinois University Press. The ninth edition of Theatrical Design and Production, for which he is a co-author with Michael Gillette, was recently published by McGraw-Hill.

    Rich Dionne

    Co-Director, Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering

    Mr. Fulk is the Director of Internship for the Division of Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) at Purdue University.  His responsibilities not only include the internship program for the Division but in addition he is the academic advisor and lecturer for a host of core CEM courses including Capstone.  He received his Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering in 1998, Masters in Civil Engineering in 2022, and Professional Engineering License in 2003.

    Mr. Fulk’s current research and interests reside in preparing future construction industry leaders.  He has spent time evaluating current practices, cataloging industry needs, and reflecting on how students learn by digesting research provided in Engineering Education.

    The Fusion Studio is an exciting opportunity for Mr. Fulk to dive into the intersection of entertainment and engineering; specifically, the construction industry operates in this space at the intersection of theme parks, resorts, and sports venue facilities. Students will benefit from this opportunity as it answers an increasing call by students to use construction in this space.

      Brandon Fulk

      Co-Director, Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering

      Before her retirement, Dr. Mary Pilotte was an Associate Professor of Engineering Practice and also Director of the School of Engineering Education’s Undergraduate degree programs in Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies and Multidisciplinary Engineering.

      She taught varied topics across levels of student development, from professional development to engineering economics and Senior Capstone Design. Outside of the College of Engineering she instructed project management and consulting approaches for the Global and Executive MBA programs at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, and headed corporate workshops based on her book Millennial Reset (2018) and on Intentional Learning.

      Her research interests include engineering work culture including generations-based engineering practices and norms, examining what it means to identify as “multidisciplinary”, and exploring new approaches and dynamic strategies around increasing workplace diversity, especially for the neurodiverse, and those with invisible differences.

      Prior to her roles in the academic setting, she worked professionally for more than 20 years in the automotive, aerospace, airline, and commercial products industries, holding a variety of titles. She lead high performing teams in manufacturing, design-engineering for new product and process development, and ultimately in plant management and finance completing strategic mergers and acquisitions.

        Mary Pilotte

        Founding Co-Director, Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering (retired)