November 9, 2020

Purdue fuses students’ passion for engineering and entertainment careers with new center

Note to journalists: A 2019 photo of theater work is available on Google Drive. Journalists visiting campus should follow visitor health guidelines.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Driving innovation for students at the intersection of engineering and entertainment is the mission of a new interdisciplinary center at Purdue University. 

The newly created Fusion Studio for Entertainment and Engineering (FSEE) connects the fields of live entertainment and engineering, building on a long-standing partnership between the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Engineering.

FSEE will solidify Purdue’s presence as a leader in interdisciplinary education by connecting the fields of live entertainment and engineering. The center will create a collaborative community of industry partners, academic institutions, scholars and practitioners to create state-of-the-art curricular programs. FSEE will develop cutting-edge work on emerging technology and the interconnection of engineering and live entertainment.

The center will be co-directed by Rich Dionne, associate professor of theatre practice in the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance, and Mary Pilotte, associate professor of engineering practice for the School of Engineering Education.

From theme parks to theater to rock and roll concerts, live entertainment relies more heavily on technology than ever before, Dionne said, and audiences increasingly demand greater spectacle and more immersive involvement.

Purdue offers an accredited engineering degree with a rare concentration in theater engineering, as well as other degree plans of study in acoustical engineering, lighting engineering and visual design engineering. Each prepares students for a novel sector of this emergent professional field.

“Purdue is a recognized educational leader in this interdisciplinary space,” Dionne said. “The Fusion Studio will connect faculty and practitioners from institutions across the U.S. and beyond, driving the development of best practices for teaching students the skills they need to create entertainment experiences we have not yet imagined.”

Fusion Studio already has launched a monthly online discussion series and hosts the annual Stage Machine Design Competition. The annual Symposium on Education in Entertainment and Engineering is scheduled for July on campus, and invites industry, practitioners, students and a broad, multidisciplinary community of academic thought leaders to present their research, best pedagogical practices, and technological advancements and challenges.

Fusion Studio comes at a time when live entertainment events are facing challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While live events have dwindled, Pilotte said, opportunities in the merging of acoustics, augmented performance and virtual reality have increased. Audiences now desire live, safe, immersive musical performances leveraging better “remote experiences” through virtual performances that engage a wide variety of technologies. 

“This is not only gaining ground because it is safe, but because it is able to access a global audiences like never before,” she said.

In addition, interactive performance, theme park experiences and even interactive gaming benefits from these same technologies that will be advanced through Fusion Studio.

 “The center and its community will thrive through the collaboration of a membership consortium,” Pilotte said. “Other schools and industry partners have already expressed interest in joining, and we’ll be working together on how to move the entertainment field forward.” 

Writer: Brian Huchel, 765-494-2084, bhuchel@purdue.edu 

Sources: Rich Dionne, 765-494-3073, rdionne@purdue.edu

Mary Pilotte, 765-496-2655, mpilotte@purdue.edu

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