Carnegie Mellon University
December 04, 2013

Media Advisory: Carnegie Mellon Biomedical Engineering Students To Host Workshop Featuring Steel City Improv Actors

Improvisation Teaches Students To "Think on Their Feet"

Contact: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /
Event: Carnegie Mellon University biomedical engineering students will get a taste of improvisational acting with members of the quick-witted Steel City Improv group.

"I'm extremely excited about this workshop because engineers need to learn how to make mistakes intelligently," said Jim Antaki, a professor of biomedical engineering at CMU. "It's an essential trait of a successful inventor."

Antaki's new class, Biomedical Inventive Problem Solving, is designed to encourage students to find innovative ways to address some of the most challenging and longstanding issues in medicine, such as affordable health care for developing countries. "We strive to teach our students how to invent on demand," says Antaki, "and the principles of improvisation — like 'trust your instincts,' 'break the rules' and 'always move forward' — inspire them to be more creative and think on their feet."

Steel City has helped companies like Google and LEGO develop skills that encourage creativity, active listening and teamwork. They will be conducting a three-hour workshop for the first time at Carnegie Mellon with 23 graduate students who are working on a variety of challenges supplied by several collaborators, including The Children's Institute, Brother's Brother Foundation and NASA. 

The coursework will lead to the design of a product for a specific medical need, like transporting operating tables to third-world countries or to help blind children overcome spatial perception. But the ultimate goal of this class is to teach students life skills that they may otherwise never receive.

"Improvisation is not just about being funny," Antaki said. "It teaches teamwork, leadership and finding fun in your work. It's been said that 'necessity is the mother of invention,' but FUN is the father!" 

When: 5:30 - to 8:20 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5.

Where: 4307 Gates Center for Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213.