Purdue University


New! Download the Symposium Program Book!

The live entertainment industry presents increasingly complex challenges for technicians—whether in small community theatres or in large theme parks. At the same time, the shape of post-secondary education is changing—with an increasing emphasis on hands-on learning and outcome-based instructional design becoming the norm. At the convergence of these threads is the need to effectively prepare and educate students to enter the rapidly changing world of live entertainment technology.

The Symposium highlights advances, challenges, and trends in curricular design, instructional design, academic research, and cross-disciplinary work related to the intersection of engineering and live entertainment. This symposium is specifically aimed at building bridges between two exceptionally different academic and professional cultures and practices; presentations come from many different backgrounds and academic experiences. Symposium topics explore the interstitial spaces amongst the disciplines of engineering, theatre technology, and education, including the following topic areas:

2019 is the inaugural year of the Symposium on Education in Entertainment and Engineering. The idea for the Symposium arose out of a day-long meeting of industry professionals and educators in theatre technology and engineeering during the summer of 2018 in a hotel meeting room outside of O’Hare Airport in Chicago.


Registration for the Symposium is now OPEN. Register now!

Registration Rates

Registration fee: $150

Friday night dinner (optional): $30

Registration Includes

Symposium sessions and session materials

Symposium workbook, including presenter bios, presentation abstracts, and active engagement tools

Thursday evening reception

Lunch on Friday

Coffee service throughout the day Friday


The Symposium will take place on the campus of Purdue University. Purdue is within an hour drive of Indianapolis International Airport (IND) and a two-hour drive of O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in Chicago. Shuttles are available to and from both airports (Reindeer Shuttle and Lafayette Limo). Purdue University’s Visitor Information web page offers a number of resources for finding driving directions to campus.

The Symposium is happy to offer special hotel booking rates for presenters and attendees at a local hotel close to campus. Additionally, a limited number of on-campus rooms are available at reduced rate in Hawkins Hall (HAWK) for those who would prefer to stay on campus. More information about these opportunities is available at the registration website.

The majority of Symposium events will take place in Stewart Center (STEW). Stewart Center is convenient to the Grant Street Parking garage, a visitor parking garage located about one block away. A campus map can be found at Purdue University’s Visitor Information web page.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Friday, July 26, 2019

A more detailed schedule of events along with presentation abstracts and presenter biographies will be available upon registration for attendees.


(click names to expand biographies)

Symposium Hosts, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Rich Dionne, MA English, MFA Theatre

Rich Dionne is a clinical assistant professor and faculty 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. Rich is a founding Faculty Fellow of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, and has served as the technical director for numerous productions in the Department of Theatre. He teaches courses in structural and mechanical design for the stage, automation controls and show networks, project planning and advanced arena rigging to students in theatre and theatre engineering.

Prior to coming to Purdue, Richard 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 Man, Barefoot in the Park, Amadeus, Night of the Iguana, venue Q, The Illusion, and Death of a Salesman. Rich's book, Project Planning for the Stage: Tools and Techniques for Managing Extraordinary Performances, focused on the application of project planning techniques for theatrical production, was recently published by Southern Illinois University Press. The eighth edition of Theatrical Design and Production, for which he is a co-author with Michael Gillette, is due in print in spring of 2019.

Mary K. Pilotte, MBA, PhD Engineering Education

Dr. Mary Pilotte as Associate Professor of Engineering Practice is also Director of the School of Engineering Education’s Undergraduate degree programs in Interdisciplinary Engineering Studies and Multidisciplinary Engineering. She teaches varied topics across levels of student development, from professional development to engineering economics and Senior Capstone Design. Outside of the College of Engineering she instructs project management and consulting approaches for the Global and Executive MBA programs at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, and heads 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 academy, she worked professionally for more than 20 years in the automotive, aerospace, airline, and commercial products industries, holding a variety of titles and leading high performing teams in manufacturing, design-engineering for new product and process development, and in strategic mergers and acquisitions.

Symposium Presenters

Geoffry A. Akers, PhD
College of the Ozarks, Branson, MO

Dr. Geoff Akers is an Associate Professor of Engineering in the James P. Keeter School of Engineering at the College of the Ozarks, the only engineering program at a federally-recognized work college. Dr. Akers had a distinguished 20-year career in the US Air Force, retiring in 2016 as a Lieutenant Colonel. The majority of Lt Col Akers’ career focused on developing and testing state-of-the-art aerospace systems. He was selected to complete a PhD in Electrical Engineering and then teach graduate courses at the Air Force Institute of Technology. Lt Col Akers completed his career in Arlington, Virginia, as Program Manager of Special Programs, where led the engineering support of a 170 million dollar advanced technology program.

Alexandra Boltasseva, PhD
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Alexandra Boltasseva is a Professor at the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. She received her PhD in electrical engineering at Technical University of Denmark in 2004. She is 2018 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists Finalist and received the 2013 IEEE Photonics Society Young Investigator Award, 2013 Materials Research Society Outstanding Young Investigator Award, the MIT Technology Review Top Young Innovator (TR35), and the Young Elite-Researcher Award from the Danish Council for Independent Research. She is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America (OSA), Fellow of SPIE and is Editor-in-Chief for OSA’s Optical Materials Express.

Jon Cullison, B.M. Jazz Composition/Arranging and M.M. Bass Perf.
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

Jon Cullison is currently an Associate Professor of Music Technology at Colorado School of Mines. He holds a B.M. in Jazz Composition/Arranging, and a M.M. in Bass Performance, with a concentration in Jazz Studies. Jon has been a professional musician for 30+ years, performing and recording with a wide range of ensembles and styles covering Jazz, Salsa, Orchestral, Rock and Pop. As an audio engineer, he has recorded and mixed multiple artists, including Dan Perkins, Lorenzo Trujillo, and Belinda Womack. He has composed and arranged works for a variety of situations, including movie music with Derrick Boelter Productions and Max Wild Productions.

As an educator, he has taught classes ranging from Music Theory and Music History, to Electro/Acoustic Improvisation and Audio and Acoustical Engineering and Science. Mr. Cullison started teaching at CSM 10+ years ago and has built the Music Technology Program and developed the Music, Engineering and Recording Arts Minor for CSM. He also is Director of the Jazz Program at CSM, and his ensembles maintain a busy performance schedule, including public performances in Dublin and Rome, and radio performances on KUVO in Denver. He has also published educational material through XANedu for CSM classes.

Robert Klimek, BA, MDiv, MA, DA
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

Dr. Robert Klimek, BA, MDiv, MA, DA is a CSM Teaching Professor, musician, composer and clinician in ethnomusicology. Some of his past teachers include Aaron Copeland, Philip Glass and Donald Keats. His works can be heard worldwide and can be found in over 100 music collections. He has been a featured artist on a Grammy nominated album, as well as final nominee for the National Booksellers Gold Medallion Award. Currently, he is the director of the Music and the Performing Arts program at Colorado School of Mines, which offers a minor in Music, the Recording Arts and Technology The program successfully produced its first full album in 2012, and was awarded the Recording of the Month (December) by the Independent Broadcasters Association. Dr. Klimek and Dr. Skokan have been leading international trips with CSM music/engineering students. Each of the experiences emphasized both sides of the student’s skill set (engineering/music). All trips included music performances; ethno music instruction; engineering lectures, industry tours, and community service projects. Dr. Klimek’s hope, through these international experiences, is to create a pathway upon which the CSM student realizes that his/her technical field is an ‘art form.’ This art form enhances and enlivens both the student and the peoples and cultures visited.

Amanda S. Mayes, PhD
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

Amanda Mayes is the Manager of Education in Purdue Convocations. She oversees programming for family and youth audiences, outreach activities, and curricular integration at the K-12 and collegiate level. In addition, Dr. Mayes runs all research initiatives at Convocations and serves as a research consultant for the ArtsKC Regional Arts Council. Her research interests include academic and intrinsic impacts of arts experiences, program assessment, professional development, improving cultural competency, and arts advocacy. Previously, Dr. Mayes managed an NIH funded investigation of media’s impact on health related behaviors in college women and was a visual arts teacher for over a decade. She has given presentations of her teaching and research at regional, state, and national conferences. She holds a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Purdue University, a MA in Visual Arts Education from Purdue University, and a BS in Visual Arts Education from Indiana State University.

Kathryn Metzler, BSME, BA Design and Technology
SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

Kathryn Metzler is an emerging professional from Buffalo, New York. She attended the University at Buffalo, SUNY, graduating in 2019 with dual degrees: Mechanical Engineering, BS and Theatre, BA with a concentration in design and technology. She intends to use both degrees to work on complex projects, and help with technological and safety advancements in the entertainment industry. Within the undergraduate theatre program, she worked as the Technical Director for three department productions, but also cross trained and held the role of Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Sound Designer, and Master Electrician, among other assistant roles. Within the engineering program there were multiple classes with a lab component or semester long group projects which trained future engineers in the hands on and collaborative aspects of the job more than just pages upon pages of maths. Ultimately she attempted to cultivate the useful knowledge from each discipline to create a unique blend of skills. Having just come out of these two separate programs which at this stage, are beginning to encourage, but don’t necessarily foster interdepartmental cross over, she is excited to join the conversation about the convergence of the fields on the educational and professional levels.

John M. Persichetti, BS, MS Chemical Engineering and Petroleum Refining
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

John Persichetti, BS, MS Chemical Engineering is a Mines Teaching Associate Professor, Assistant Director for the Engineering, Design, and Society Division, Director of the Capstone Senior Design program for approximately half of the Mines graduating engineers (~500 students per year in a multi-disciplinary program), and Director of the general B.S. in Engineering degree at Mines. John is also a choral musician, member of an English Handbell choir, and involved in community theatre as set designer and technical director for a half-dozen productions. Intertwining his engineering background, creative engagement in the classroom, and passion for the performing arts, John likes to bring an added dimension to both his community performances and to the way engineers think about creative problem solving. The B.S. in Engineering degree program that he directs allows students to pursue a passion to help enliven their career pursuits. One of the prescribed and transcripted areas of study for the degree includes a focus in Music, Audio Engineering, and Recording Arts, allowing students 18 semester hours of course study dedicated to any of these aspects of the performing arts and advising on appropriate engineering courses to support the technical dimension of the arts.

Catherine Skokan, BSc, MSc, PhD Geophysical Engineering
Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO

Dr. Catherine Skokan, BSc, MSc,PhD – Geophysical Engineering, is an associate professor emerita at the Colorado School of Mines and is the first woman to receive a graduate degree from this institution. Her technical interests include volcanoes, geothermal and energy resources, groundwater resources, and humanitarian engineering. Dr. Skokan has traveled extensively with student groups and she has led humanitarian engineering projects to the Americas, Europe, and Africa. She has also conducted workshops in Italy, Colombia, Tanzania and Zambia. Dr. Skokan is a regular lecturer for the Road Scholar Program where she lectures on cruise ships. Her music interests include playing violin with the CSM orchestra, bassoon with the CSM band, and erhu with the CSM Chinese Ensemble as well as performing with chamber groups outside of CSM. With Dr. Robert Klimek, Dr. Skokan has led trips with Colorado School of Mines students over Spring Break. As a window into culture, Drs. Klimek (Director of Music) and Skokan (Engineering) organize trips to include technical tours and music experiences – both performance and as an audience. These trips have taken students to Italy, Peru, Jamaica, Ireland and Vietnam. With student groups, her passion is for travel and to share with others our beautiful world.

Denise Szecsei, MS Biostatistics, PhD Mathematics
University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Denise Szecsei teaches Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Iowa. She received undergraduate degrees in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics from the University of Redlands, and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from the Florida State University. She enjoys keeping up with new technological developments and incorporates new technology into her classes and research activities. She has been working with NAO humanoid robots for the past six years, and Cozmo for two years. She has designed robot dance and theater classes for students with a variety of interests and backgrounds, and is excited to watch how people of all ages express themselves through these robots.

John C. Tomkins, PhD English
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN

John C. Tompkins serves as the lecturer in technical communications for the Lyles School of Civil Engineering at Purdue University where he teaches the core writing and speaking classes for the school. He received his BA in English from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2002 and his PhD in English from Purdue University in 2013.

Kathryn Woodcock, PhD, ICAE, PEng
Ryerson University, Toronto, ON

Dr. Kathryn Woodcock is Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto and director of the THRILL Lab, involved in unique extracurricular training, research, and knowledge mobilization activities focused on human factors of amusement rides and attractions. She studies accident and error analysis, task demands, and interface design, pertaining to guests, operators, and inspectors. Her research, innovation, and service have been published in over 75 peer-reviewed chapters, journal articles and conference papers and over 200 other presentations and publications for both industry and professional audiences. Dr. Woodcock is a member of TEA, ASTM Committee F24, Ontario TSSA Amusement Devices Advisory Council, Global Safety Committee of IAAPA, and Board of Directors of the Canadian National Exhibition, consults to designer/manufacturers and owner/ operators, and regularly instructs at AIMS and NAARSO industry seminars. She chairs the inaugural Themed Experience and Attractions Academic Symposium, and leads the international Rider Eligibility Task Group for ASTM Committee F24. She is a registered Professional Engineer, IAAPA Certified Attraction Executive, Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist, and Fellow of Association of Canadian Ergonomists. She earned Bachelor and Master’s degrees in Systems Design Engineering at University of Waterloo, and PhD in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at University of Toronto, all specializing in human factors engineering.

Nic White
College of the Ozarks, Branson, MO

Nic White is currently a junior in College of the Ozarks’ engineering program. He began working for the college’s Engineering Department in August of 2017, as a student worker. Nic tutors for math and engineering classes, as well as how to use equipment and software; such as 3D printers, laser engravers, and CAD software. Nic has most recently begun helping Dr. Geoff Akers with work in the field of acoustics by using acoustic software to model and analyze the acoustic environment of facilities. Nic White plans on graduating with a BS in Engineering in May 2020 and continuing towards an electrical engineering career.