Carnegie Mellon University
September 14, 2015

CMU and Its Entertainment Technology Center Host Themed Entertainment Conference Sept. 17-18

Disney’s Scott Trowbridge, Star Wars’ Anthony Daniels Are Featured Speakers

By Pam Wigley, Carnegie Mellon University / 412-268-1047 /,
Judith Rubin, TEA Communications /

Carnegie Mellon University and its Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) are partnering to host the Themed Entertainment Association’s (TEA) annual SATE (Storytelling + Architecture + Technology = Experience) Conference, Sept. 17-18.  Shirley Saldamarco, president of Interactive Media Productions and an ETC faculty member, is co-chair of the event with Loren Barrows, director of Business Development at Alcorn McBride.

The conference will feature “A Conversation With ... Anthony Daniels” — a take on “Inside the Actors Studio” — and will incorporate a live, onstage interview with a meeting of the minds between Daniels, the actor known worldwide for his role as C3PO in “Star Wars,” and Walt Disney Imagineering’s Scott Trowbridge, who is dedicated solely to the “Star Wars” franchise. Daniels is a visiting professor at the ETC. The two-day event is a unique educational conference for the international themed entertainment industry. 

“This year’s SATE is changing the rules, and all of our speakers will focus their presentations on how various combinations of story plus architecture plus technology equals experience,” Saldamarco says. “It’s all about the experience with a capital ‘E’ and how merging the topics provides a more cohesive experience.”

For the last three years, SATE has taken place on a university campus where it has been a win-win for the TEA membership and students. The Savannah College of Art & Design in Georgia and Florida State University in Sarasota were previous hosts. 

“It’s very competitive. Universities are already vying to host next year’s conference,” Saldamarco said. “For CMU, it’s a great way to showcase our facilities and the collaboration among the school and professionals in themed entertainment.”

The organization’s leadership hopes to engage students by encouraging their attendance as TEA NextGen members. SATE tickets are discounted for qualified students, and TEA offers other ways for them to mitigate costs. Some win scholarships to the conference; others have an opportunity to work in the crew as stage managers, lighting directors and general production assistants. Saldamarco said being involved at that level provides “a real hands-on way to see how an event like this comes together.”

SATE 2015 also benefits from the ETC.

“As an educational institution, the ETC organizes students into multi-disciplinary teams and teaches collaboration and teamwork above all else,” Saldamarco explained. “We excel by creating an educational environment in which interdisciplinary students acquire collaboration, creativity and communication expertise while applying their artistic and technical skills through design-based research projects. Expertise diversity leads to more conflict, disagreements and debates, and that’s precisely what leads to the creation of higher-quality, more innovative products.”

SATE 2015 will make use of a number of venues on the CMU campus, including the Phillip Chosky Theater at the Purnell Center for the Arts. “The School of Drama and its Head, Peter Cooke, generously provided us with the theater — a wonderful space large enough to meet our needs,” Saldamarco said.

In hosting SATE 2015, CMU and the ETC will give students an inside perspective on the industry and its rock stars, for whom many will work one day. 

“At the ETC, we balance educational goals, professional development and engaging experiences. It’s what we refer to as ‘learn, work, play,’” Saldamarco said. “With an emphasis on leadership, innovation and communication, we create challenging experiences through which students learn how to collaborate, experiment and iterate solutions.  That’s why I think SATE and the TEA are both such a perfect fit for our students.”

A limited number of tickets are available for qualified press to attend SATE. For tickets and more information, go to