About the Fusion Studio
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.
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 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, interdisciplinary, cross-unit, university center. The Fusion Studio’s leadership structure emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the center, with co-directors from the College of Engineering and from the College of Liberal Arts. Director of Engineering Education Undergraduate Degree Programs and Associate Professor of Engineering Practice, Dr. Mary Pilotte, and Associate Professor of Practice and Production Manager in the Department of Theatre, Rich Dionne, are the founding Co-Directors.
The birth of the Fusion Studio’s begins well before this, however.
Theatre engineering as a concentration within the Multidisciplinary Engineering program began when faculty in engineering and theatre joined forces to make formal the interests of a growing number of students. This work began in 2017, building on the work 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). Originally fashioned as a self-designed plan of study across interdisciplinary topics in engineering and live entertainment, Pilotte and Dionne collaborated to create two pathways of the theatre engineering concentration within the ABET-accredited Multidisciplinary Engineering program. As of summer 2020, this engineering program holds the unique standing of being one of a kind in the nation.
In response to a rapidly growing 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, to discuss 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 — including shared interest from other academic institutions desiring to launch similar programs — Dionne and Pilotte recognized that Purdue University is positioned to design a space to connect faculty with practitioners from across the country and to provide resources and guidance — including best practices and pedagogical approaches. This new, exciting, and innovative space at the convergence of engineering and entertainment industries now lives as The Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering.