05 November 2010

Themed Entertainment: At ETC academic mixer, TEA ambassador David Aion educates while he entertains

David Aion, president of the Western Division of the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), strayed east to Pittsburgh for the TEA mixer at ETC (Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, a specialized graduate program created by Don Marinelli and the late Randy Pausch). There, he found himself in the role of TEA industry ambassador.

On Wed 27 October, the day before the mixer, Aion gave a presentation to about 75 students in a “creating alternate worlds” class. After being introduced by Iris Lin, ETC executive assistant for development, Aion summarized the TEA and showed some “sizzle” reels from TEA member companies BRC Imagination Arts, Contour Entertainment, COST of Wisconsin and S&S Worldwide.

“Many of the students are very focused on video games,” observed Aion. “I told them about location-based entertainment and traced a connection for them between video games and consumer experience. I explained that what they are learning now can translate into a visitor attraction such as Disney’s Toy Story Mania. They were enthusiastic.” He finished his presentation and pronounced “class dismissed!” Then, reported Aion, “about 25 students cornered me, excited and animated, wanting to know more about the industry, the companies and how to find out more about them."

The conversation continued until it was time for the next class. "Iris moved me into the library and notified the students I was available for more questions, and the conversation went on for another three hours. We got really in depth on a lot of things concerning the industry.”

At the mixer the following evening, Thurs 28 October, the 100+ attendees comprised students, alumni, professors, support staff, and an intriguing cross section of people from area businesses, nonprofits and creative entities, including: Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Kennywood park, Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Caterpillar, Braskem, Evil Genius Designs (founded by ETC alumni), girlsFIRST, IBM, Idea Foundry, Integrated Industrial Technologies, Kellner’s Fireworks, Pittsburgh Opera, Schell Games LLC (also connected to ETC alumni), Tepper School of Business, Andy Warhol Museum, Toonseum, and YoGeek (that last takes the prize for a descriptive company name). Penny Peavler of The Weber Group and Lenny Larsen of Next Generation Creative were there, both active volunteers within TEA.

There were a number of student projects on display in the room, and plenty of inquiring minds. “The students all cornered me again with more questions,” said Aion. “It was a terrific time and it’s clear that TEA has a lot to offer this group, and they us – they need to know about our industry, and our companies and projects will benefit from this new young talent pool. I want to express heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped organize and participated in this promising event.”

TEA gained several new student members as a result of this event, which grew out of a visit David Aion paid to ETC to meet with Don Marinelli and his team and tour the facility when he was traveling in the area several months ago. There are plans to repeat it again within the year, and to continue to build in other ways on the relationship between TEA and ETC.

Photos from top: David Aion, Don Marinelli