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"There’s nothing like this at any other institution anywhere because only Point Park offers the triple threat of a distinctive location surrounded by Downtown Pittsburgh's award-winning cultural district, a world-renowned conservatory and industry-experienced engineering faculty." 

Matthew Pascal, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering

An exciting cross-campus collaboration between Point Park University's Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering and its world-renowned Conservatory of Performing Arts will provide electrical engineering students with a competitive, in-demand skill set for the live entertainment and performance industries. 

The new minor in theatrical engineering, launching this fall, will allow students to explore the artistic and technical aspects of entertainment and performance to prepare them for careers in production and theatrical companies, architectural or engineering design firms, equipment manufacturers and more. 

"Point Park is breaking new ground by adding courses from our well-known theatre production program to our ABET-accredited program in electrical engineering," said Matthew Pascal, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Natural Sciences and Engineering. "There’s nothing like this at any other institution because only Point Park offers the triple threat of a distinctive location surrounded by Downtown Pittsburgh's award-winning cultural district, the widely respected and celebrated Conservatory and industry-experienced engineering faculty." 

Students will be trained for licensure as electrical engineers, take Point Park's tried-and-true theatre production courses and focus on the design and operation of electrical systems for theatre and entertainment venues. They will hone their skills on equipment in the University's state-of-the-art Pittsburgh Playhouse and other performance venues within walking distance of campus, gaining hands-on experience through real-world, live events. 

In the Q&A below, learn more about this innovative educational experience from Donald Keller, Ph.D., P.E., professor and coordinator of the electrical engineering program who led the creation of the theatrical engineering minor. 

What inspired the launch of this new minor?

Technology – particularly electrical technology – is a critical part of nearly every type of entertainment today. We want to provide electrical engineering majors with experience in live performance through an exciting combination of our rigorous engineering curriculum and a broad introduction to the artistic and technical elements of theatre. This program is perfect for aspiring engineers who are willing to think outside of the box and combine a practical career in engineering with their heart’s desire in the arts.

Pictured is Donald Keller. File photo.
Donald Keller, Ph.D., P.E.

How will this complement the electrical engineering major?

It's a perfect fit, as electrical technology is essential to live performance in today’s world. Think for example of the annual tours of Trans Siberian Orchestra. The use of electrical technology is ever-present in their amazing lighting effects and sounds. To add to the challenge of creating that spectacular experience, the safety of the audience and performers is paramount in such situations, so well-educated, competent, licensed engineers are needed to pull off these events in a safe and entertaining fashion.

What courses will students take and what will they learn?

The “theatrical” part of theatrical engineering consists of three core courses focused on the artistic side of theatre, paired with four courses in the technical areas of design, sound, lighting and sets. On the “engineering” side of the minor, students will have the chance to complete senior engineering projects related to theatre. Tying everything together will be two practicum courses in which students work directly on productions alongside Conservatory of Performing Arts students and faculty to learn what live theatre is all about.

How will the minor leverage Point Park’s distinctive location in Downtown Pittsburgh, surrounded by various entertainment venues?

Apart from the enthusiasm, knowledge and resources that the Conservatory faculty bring to this new program, we have numerous professional companies within walking distance of campus, with which the University has well-established relationships. We envision working with these companies to define appropriate theatre-related projects for our students, to guide the students during design and construction and finally to showcase the finished products in actual performances. Nothing makes engineering come alive like seeing one’s handiwork put to use in a realistic setting for the benefit of others.

What types of jobs will the minor prepare students for?

This minor will give our engineering graduates instant credibility throughout the performance and entertainment enterprise. Finding qualified electrical engineers who are interested in working in this setting is rare enough, but finding engineers with a background of study such as ours is almost unheard of. Our graduates are going to be standouts in the industry. I envision them working everywhere from regional theatre companies to large theatrical equipment manufacturers.

As a faculty member, what do you find most exciting about the addition of this minor?

Live theatre has been a hobby and interest of mine for a long time, so I am personally very eager to see students take advantage of this program. It is a perfect fit for the University because it promotes collaboration between the engineering and theatre programs, both of which emphasize Point Park's long-standing commitment to experiential learning and career readiness.

What are the key benefits of Point Park’s engineering programs?

Our engineering programs have an unwavering commitment to helping students achieve their career and life goals. With dedicated faculty, small class sizes and hands-on instruction, we prepare our graduates to prosper and make an impact on their chosen field.

Learn more about engineering programs at Point Park in the video below:

More About: Pittsburgh Playhouse, electrical engineering, Conservatory of Performing Arts, faculty, School of Arts and Sciences, Downtown Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh