Exploding the (Blogging) Experience - A SATE Conference Storify

September 22, 2015

Welcome to our first Storify - a recap of the 2015 SATE Conference. Enjoy!

Tags: JRA Journeys , Outside the Studio

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PROJECT ANNOUNCEMENT: Crystal Lagoon Theme Park at Sharjah Waterfront City

September 15, 2015

Sharjah Oasis Real Estate Development, a rising real estate developer in the region, has announced the successful launch of one of its most iconic projects – Sharjah Waterfront City. The official launch of the project was announced through a press conference at Cityscape Global 2015 held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The press conference was hosted by Hayssam El Masri, president of Sharjah Oasis Real Estate and Sheikh Abdullah Shkara, Chaiman of Al Hanoo Real Estate Co.

Mr. Hayssam El Masri, president of the Sharjah Oasis Real Estate Development

El Masri commented on the launch of the project: “We have launched Sharjah Waterfront City keeping in line with Sharjah’s development plans to attract 10 million visitors to its emirate by 2021. These robust plans will increase demand for residential and commercial units as well as hotels, especially in prime locations that offer all modern facilities. We can proudly say Sharjah Waterfront City will be able to match the demands and provide the desired quality of living.

“The real estate market in this region has been stable and we are thrilled to have launched Sharjah Waterfront City at the right time in the right location.”

Sharjah Waterfront City

Sharjah Waterfront City (Sharjah WFC) is a series of ten islands interconnected by canals made by nature and spread across 36 km of coastal land on the northeastern coast of Sharjah. It is expected to be the largest commercial, residential and tourism development project in the Emirate of Sharjah upon completion, with an area of around 60 million square feet. Components of the development include:

  • - 200 towers for residential and commercial purposes
  • - 96 apartment buildings
  • - Multi-level hotels and service apartments
  • - More than 1,100 waterfront and parkside villas
  • - Marine clubs
  • - A world-class water theme park
  • - A large shopping mall and various commercial centers
  • - Two main entertainment centers

JRA is providing master planning and preliminary concept design for Sharjah Waterfront City's Crystal Lagoon Water Theme Park. The park will spread over 1.5 million square feet and include 40 water and dry rides, including the possibility of a coaster that would combine the action of a water ride with the interactivity of a video game, making it the first of its kind in the Middle East. Reaching a diverse array of theme and water park enthusiasts, the park will also feature family rides, thrill rides, 4D dark rides, a state-of-the-art planetarium and numerous children's rides. To encourage prolonged length of stay and to offer a respite from the thrills of the day, the park will offer a dazzling fountain show and evening spectacular. Developers hope the park will become a leading global entertainment destination, attracting one million visitors per year from across the Middle East as well as Europe and Asia.

Crystal Lagoon Theme Park

"I am pleased to be working on a project that has a combination of attractions typically unseen in the entertainment industry," remarked Dan Schultz, JRA's Chief Operating Officer. "In addition, the fact that the Crystal Lagoon Theme Park is situated on its own island among the ten islands gives it a unique and picturesque location."

Speaking to the Sharjah WFC as a whole, Sheikh Abdullah Shkara, Chairman of Al Hanoo Real Estate Co. added: “We have invested a lot in this project and we are delighted to see Sharjah Oasis Real Estate Development doing a tremendous job in the construction of Sharjah Waterfront City. We believe this project will be the heartbeat of the city’s tourism 2021 vision.”

Check out our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube pages as we release new photos, video and news coverage of Sharjah Waterfront City everyday this week!


Tags: Project Spotlight

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Being Disruptive and Breaking the Rules at The 2015 SATE Conference

September 14, 2015

Explode the experience.

Be disruptive.

Change the rules.

These are the challeges to be posed at this week’s SATE Conference, presented by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) September 17 and 18. The TEA started SATE, which stands for Storytelling + Architecture + Technology = Experience, in 2007 as a way of stimulating professional dialogue about the experience design industry and encouraging information exchange among creative disciplines across the country. To foster this emphasis on learning, and for the third year in a row, SATE will be hosted by a university. Over two and a half days at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, attendees will be treated to over two dozen presentations and panels, as well as evening mixers, tours, and an opportunity to interview and recruit some of the industry’s brightest new talent. 

Exploding the Dialogue – SATE Speakers and Topics

SATE’s 2015 Co-Chairs, Shirley Saldamarco, President of Interactive Media Productions and a member of the CMU faculty, and Loren Barrows, Director of Business Development at Alcorn McBride, have assembled a diverse cadre of speakers to cover each of the S, A, T & E segments. Each of the segments is chaired by an industry leader: Linda B. Smith of Smithink will helm Storytelling, Anthony Van Dam of Forrec will curate Architecture, Paul Kent of Electrosonic leads the Technology segment, and Walt Disney Imagineering’s Cory Rouse directs the Experience discussions.

Storytelling – Deanna Franci of Gensler, James Grady of Fathom Information Design and Anna Musun-Miller of the Indianapolis Zoo will “unleash” architecture, technology and social action, respectively. These distinguished speakers will examine current trends in storytelling and culture, before coaching attendees on how to effectively deliver a story to unlock a specific audience reaction or response.

Architecture – How do you create “extended diversions” to increase visitor length of stay? How do you use architecture and design to make them feel “pleasantly disoriented” and transported from their everyday lives? Speaking of disorientation, why are the most unsettling rides always the most popular? How can you use aromas, sounds, textures and temperature changes to transform an experience? How does today’s “always on” technology affect consumer preferences and design decisions? This segment attempts to answer all these questions and more with the help of Matt Earnest of Entertainment + Culture Advisors (ECA), Thomas Fo of WATG, Cecil Magpuri of Falcon’s Creative Group, Tony Miceli of Electrosonic, and Josh Gorin of Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI).

Technology – SATE’s technology slate will feature brainwaves, drones, robots virtual reality and other cutting edge innovations and strategies, with speakers including Richard Herbert of UNTI-UB (“Neuroscience Fiction”), Chris Russell of the Annenberg Space for Photography (“The Drones Are Coming!”), Mark Argo of Aesthetec Studio, Inc. (“They’ve Got Some Character”, introducing a new generation to robots), Jesse Schell of Schell Games (“Understanding the Impact of Virtual Reality”), Erik Watts of the Pittsburgh Penguins (“Keeping the Edge”, a look at the Penguins’ tech strategies), and Jakob Wahl of Europa-Park (“Virtual Reality in a Real Park”).

And speaking of technology, for the first time, SATE attendees will experience a deeper level of engagement with the conference via a special SATE app. The app will feature a conference schedule, speaker info, attendee info, venue maps, live polls and questions and a scavenger hunt game. The app will be available on iPhone and Droid beginning Wednesday, September 16th.

Experience – Adam Bezark of The Bezark Company will kick off the segment by teaching the audience the most important rule in experience design: “Avoid the Penny."  Josh Jeffery of Google will chronicle the impact of big data on the guest experience. Matthew DuPlessie of 5Wits and MIT will unveil the unprecedented opportunities for personal experience in today’s technological age. George Nauman of Chute Gerdeman will reveal how to disrupt, engage and influence the customer journey through immersive sensory experiences. Kennywood’s Chris Salerno will delve inside the visitor’s emotional connection to innovation, and how it has shaped Pittsburgh’s 118-year-old theme park. Actor and motivational speaker David Shoup will take a step back from the industry and focus on the personal, challenging the audience to look into themselves and discover their own amazing experiences. Lenny Larsen of Next Generation Creative Group and Steven C. Blum of Universal Creative will explore how parks can create engaging and fully immersive experiences for guests with disabilities. Heather Kelley of Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center will explain how the genetic variance in human taste perception can alter customer experience preferences. And Brian Tierney, Entertainment Host for Nickelodeon, will close the segment with a “Game Show Showdown” that promises plenty of shenanigans after two days of intense discussion and learning.

A Conversation with Anthony Daniels

Perhaps one of the most highly anticipated moments of the conference will be “A Conversation with Anthony Daniels”. Daniels, best known for his portrayal of C3PO in the Star Wars series, and the only actor to appear in all seven of the series’ films, will be interviewed in “Inside the Actor’s Studio” style by WDI’s Scott Trowbridge. The two men will discuss the role of technology, how it has changed, and its effect on over 35 years of Star Wars films, rides, museum installations and concerts.

Evening Networking

The dialogue at SATE doesn’t stop with the afternoon’s closing remarks. Guests will be treated to an array of evening events throughout the three nights of the conference, where they can continue to explode their conference experience in a variety of ways. Wednesday, attendees will meet and greet at the Opening Mixer at Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh, a nod to the city's German heritage. Thursday, Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) will host a tour of its cutting edge facility as well as an evening reception. Friday, attendees will need to be in their best voice (or not) as SATE takes over Claddagh’s Irish Pub for a closing mixer featuring #SATEoke! Started as a lark amongst a few industry friends, #SATEoke has now become a SATE staple, featuring performances from industry leaders and newcomers across a wide range of talent. All of these events promise additional networking opportunities with a strong dose of light-hearted fun.

Gibbing and Gabbing with the Future of Themed Entertainment


On Saturday, following the official conference, 17 TEA member companies and 32 student and recent graduates (members of the TEA’s NextGen program) will convene for GibGab SATE: a speed networking mixer. The morning will begin with a rapid-fire series of interviews, forcing NextGen members to deliver their portfolio, and themselves, in only three minutes. While half of the NextGen members are interviewing, the other half will be treated to a panel discussion with industry leaders on what to expect your first day on the job, how to keep a job once you have it, and industry do’s and don’ts. Throughout the morning, companies will have the opportunity to select NextGen members for an additional 15-minute afternoon interview, hopefully paving the way for a professional match. At GibGab, brevity might not merely be the “soul of wit”, but the launching pad for a brand new industry career.

Not Just Changing the Rules – Breaking Them

Through its dynamic discussions, engaging panels and various networking opportunities, Co-Chair Shirley Saldamarco hopes that SATE’s 250+ attendees will leave with a renewed sense of what is possible. “Real creativity begins at the end of your comfort zone,” says Saldamarco. “That’s sometimes a place we’re afraid to venture, but exactly where we need to be.”

For more information on the SATE Conference, please visit the SATE blog on www.teaconnect.org and follow the Twitter hashtag #TEAsate.

Media inquiries: contact Judith Rubin, judy@teaconnect.org


Tags: JRA Journeys

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Towers of Terror, Internet Karma and Shared Experiences - The Friday Fives with Ryan Szarwark

September 11, 2015

Ryan Szarwark

Ryan Szarwark

Welcome back to our Friday Fives series, where we ask five questions of our new superstar co-ops. Today, we're talking with University of Cincinnati industrial design student, Ryan Szarwark, about the how movement inspires thought, and how seeing a fully realized project being shared by visitors - literally and figuratively - can bring joy to its creator.

I get my daily news from ….

reddit mostly. A brilliant information crossroads, the so called “front page of the internet” boasts a karma system where users are rewarded by supplying relevant and/or interesting content. This makes reddit the first source stop for almost all-online news coverage, as most other websites get their information from it. In depth discussion of almost any topic that exists occurs in deeper subreddits, which can be easily found and subscribed to.

My favorite exhibit/attraction is …

…a hard statement to finish. In my experience, it all comes down to something that is unique, interesting, involved, inclusive, and most of all, exciting (also safe). Combination dark ride/ thrill rides typically give the best unique experiences with thrills that excite but are also not too extreme given the parameters of being indoors at least partially. My personal favorite is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. Superb story and effects bring this attraction to its full potential, more so than its several clones (Tokyo Disney Sea’s, however, is just as incredible), not to mention the entire street built for it that only adds to its eeriness. As for a favorite that I deem the best, it would have to be Test Track at Epcot Center. Its involved queue, design lab, fun family friendly ride, as well as replay value of all things, make it an experience, not just an attraction. Also its theme is design, and that is awesome.

My favorite part of the design process is …

…the arrival. Don’t get me wrong, I truly do love the process; research, ideation, modeling, presentation, the whole shebang, but there is something about the arrival. When you step back and see the work that has been accomplished, and that it was worth it, it feels good. Bliss. If only for a moment. Then the next project is assigned and you get to dive right back in.

Best thing about the industry…

…is the leveled playing field resulting from it. Apart from an impossibility, (if every single person in the world could experience these attractions it would be completely level; however, this is not the case), everyone who does experience these attractions does so sharing it with others, friends, loved ones, and strangers. The experience is shared, and it is also equal, as well as meaning something different to each person who lives it. To create something that moves and inspires each and every person; that is the best thing about the industry.

To get inspired, I go …

…outside or driving. For some people it’s their shower, for others it’s the kitchen, for me it is the car. Something about movement inspires thought. It evokes change and growth, development of a natural order. Moving is living. If I’m looking for something awe-inspiring I simply look at the empty void that is the night sky. There’s nothing more terrifying, nor more humbling, than being aware of our own insignificance in this great big universe.

Then I go back inside to do more important things.


Thanks, John and Ryan, for contributing to this month's Friday Fives segment. We look forward to seeing you what you will create while you are with us!


Tags: JRA Team

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A Fast and Furious Friday Fives with Co-Op John Margraf

September 04, 2015

John Margraf

John Margraf

Fall is almost here, and universities around the country and the world have opened their doors for another academic year. For JRA, that means a new crop of super star co-ops! Today, we're asking 5 questions of John Margraf, industrial design student at University of Cincinnati's world-renowned School of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP).

What sport do you enjoy watching/playing?
I enjoy watching football, baseball, golf, and basketball. I enjoy playing basketball, and volleyball.

What are your favorite movies?

Interstellar, and all the Fast and Furious movies.

What did you get for Christmas when you were 7?

I got Legos and I continue to get them with no complaints.

What is your favorite food?

For sure bacon grilled cheese.

Favorite part of the design process?

My favorite part of the design process is being able to see the renders come to life simply from a picture. It continues to amaze me each and every time.

Bonus question: dream design project?

I would say my dream design project would be to create a place that would combine driving boats and cars with paintball in a hilly outdoor wilderness and make an amusement park out of it. It would describe what I like to do in my free time.

Thanks, John! We're excited to have you with us!

Tags: JRA Team

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