Pittsburgh is situated at the nexus of technologies that will shape the future. Dubbed “Roboburgh” for its strengths in robotics, it is also a powerhouse in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center and Schell Games provide a solid foundation for XR in gaming, entertainment, and education; the region’s history of manufacturing—particularly in conjunction with robotics—makes it ripe for implementation of XR in industry. Moreover, Pittsburgh is widely regarded as a major healthcare and biomedical innovation hub. Add to the mix the local culture of entrepreneurship, community-mindedness, and social responsibility, and the city emerges as a potential rising star in XR. The Pittsburgh Chapter of VRARA aims to build upon these foundational strengths, to support practitioners and users, and to create networks that will propel research into and implementation of XR in the region.


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Chapter Co-President: Mark J. W. Lee mark@thevrara.com


Mark J. W. Lee is an educational technology and learning sciences academic who is well known internationally for his scholarship in the virtual and immersive learning arena. He has a particular interest in researching creative and playful pedagogies that transcend multiple spaces, temporalities, and/or modalities; of late, he has been investigating novel ways bringing together co-located and geographically dispersed learners to jointly undertake real-time collaborative activities using VR and AR, and exploring how wearable AR, 3D volumetric video, and other emerging mixed-reality technologies can be harnessed to create effective, engaging learning experiences that blend aspects of the real and virtual worlds.

In addition to his roles with VRARA as Chapter Co-President – Pittsburgh and as Global Chair of VRARA’s University & Colleges Committee, Mark sits on the Board of Directors of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) and leads the IEEE IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering (ICICLE) Special Interest Group on XR for Learning and Performance Augmentation.

In 2016, Mark was named a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) for his distinguished contributions to ICT education and the use of ICT for education. He is also a Fellow of the Commercial Education Society of Australia (CESA), of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD), and of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA); an Associate Fellow of the Institute of Managers and Leaders (IML); and a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).


Chapter Co-President: Karen Alexander karen@thevrara.com


Karen Alexander comes to XR with years of experience in higher education ranging across teaching, program design, journal editing, and college administration. Her areas of specialization include art, literature, film, and cultural production, and she earned her Ph.D. in literature from the University of London.

Karen founded her consulting company, XRconnectED, in 2017 as a way to share her passion for XR technologies.  Initially attracted by the power of VR as an “empathy machine,” Karen soon also developed an appreciation for the startling effectiveness of XR in education and training as well as business processes such as sales and marketing, engineering and design, employee training, customer service and support, and collaboration. Her mission is to help companies and people benefit from these revolutionary technologies.

Based on her belief that affordable commercial 360 cameras can help democratize media production and facilitate citizen journalism, Karen piloted her social project, PGH in 360: Youth Perspectives, in March 2018. PGH in 360 empowers local youth to create 360-degree videos that provide their perspectives on their neighborhoods, the city, and issues they care about. The program will be implemented partnership with community organizations around Pittsburgh in the summer of 2018.

Karen is committed to women’s advancement and gender and racial equality. She loves travel, hiking, and yoga, and is a perennial beginning ballet student.


Chapter Executive Board

Jill Sciulli, Schell Games

Dwayne Waite, Jr., Schell Games

Rebecca Elinich, Community College of Allegheny County


Chapter Advisory Board

Brett Fulesday, Cohen & Company

Danielle Dietrich, Tucker Arensberg Attorneys

Tobiah Bilski, JLL

Ronald Punako, Jr., Concurrent Technologies Corporation



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