Behind the Scenes

Inspired by Technology

When Zulama’s Chief Executive Officer, Nikki Navta, toured the Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), she knew she had come across something remarkable. Dr. Don Marinelli founded the only Masters in Entertainment Technology (MET) program in the country with the late Randy Pausch. They aimed to bring right-brained and left-brained “geeks” and “creatives” together to produce projects that entertain, inform and inspire.

Nikki knew her two teenage boys would be interested and excited about what was happening at the ETC, but it is a graduate program. The only opportunity for high school students at the ETC was a summer camp, the National High School Gaming Academy, run by ETC faculty Ruth Comley.

Zulama is Born

Nikki drew on her background in developing educational materials for the major textbook publishers to create an ETC-inspired program for high school students … and Zulama was born!

Don introduced Nikki to faculty members Ruth Comley and Chris Klug and together they mapped out a program for high schoolers, getting feedback from K-12 educators along the way. They built the Zulama software platform and its content with almost continual input from users, testing and adjusting as needed.

Inspiration for a Digital Future

Many times students think that being good at playing video games means they are skilled at creating video games. Zulama shows students just how much hard work and talent is needed to be successful in the real world of game design.

No matter what career path they choose, Zulama students develop skills needed for communication, creative expression and job preparedness in a digital world. An interdisciplinary program, these courses appeal to artists, historians, writers, programmers, gamers, actors, and designers, among others.

Chris Klug, Assistant Teaching Professor, Carnegie Mellon UniversityChris Klug

Chris Klug began his career as a theatrical lighting designer on Broadway, in regional theater and opera. Before joining the ETC faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, he was Creative Director for Electronic Art’s (EA) Earth & Beyond, and Creative Director at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment in Mesa, Arizona.

Chris has also worked at Simulations Publications, Ares Magazine, Victory Games, Diamond Dreams, Inc., the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Art Institute of Phoenix.

Chris’s freelance work includes projects for SegaSoft, TSR, Hasbro Interactive, 3W, THQ, Simon and Schuster Interactive, Target Games, h2o Interactive, Gizmo Games, Westwood Studios and GT Interactive.

DragonQuest and James Bond 007, role playing games for which Chris assisted with design, have both received the Game of the Year Award.

Ruth Comley, Assistant Teaching Professor, Carnegie Mellon UniversityRuthStill1BW_Square

For over ten years, Ruth Comley, an alumna of the ETC, has been giving students the education that they need to survive in the gaming industry.

She has taught 3D computer graphics classes at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ in modeling, texturing, lighting, animation, and compositing. Ruth also worked for the IBM Corporation in Poughkeepsie, NY. There she was an Associate Programmer working on the Work Load Manager development and testing team.

She received her BS in Computer Science at The State University of New York at Plattsburgh. She also completed an Associate in Specialized Technology degree majoring in Industrial Design Technology from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.