Meet the team

Derek Ham

Principle Investigator

Over the last fifteen years I’ve taught design in a variety of contexts: architecture, graphic design, industrial design, computer animation, even game design. Across the board I see a common problem. Design educators have been teaching students to cook up their designs without following recipes (if you follow my cooking metaphor). We have not shown the method of creating a recipe or focused on the skill set to reengineer a recipe after tasting someone else’s design.

In my work I look at play as an informal learning method to teach design. I like to utilize games and play to teach design and creativity. In doing so I try to challenge educators to think about their own practice as a playful activity, to show that even in creating curricula and learning environments we can use playful calculation.

Payod Panda


I am a designer and design researcher with a multidisciplinary educational background. My research interests lie at the intersection of Human Computer Interaction and the Learning Sciences. My work ranges from topics related to Virtual Reality (VR) and education to machine learning and data visualization, drawing from my knowledge of several disciplines like design and design thinking; computer science and computational thinking; and engineering.

My overarching life goal is to help develop and live in a knowledge society where people have ready access to useful knowledge. To this end, I want to build tools that make it possible for people to analyze, interpret, and understand information — be it accumulated knowledge from various disciplines, or collected data forming the quantified world. I believe that computation and graphics can help us understand complex ideas, and I am excited by the possibility of helping improve the human condition by enabling useful access to existing knowledge and newfound information.

Christian Townsend

Designer / Developer

I’m a product designer with a passion for creating things, currently studying graphic design at North Carolina State University. My main interest is in how people interact with things, both analog and digital, and I’m especially interested in how we can blur the line between these two modes of interaction. Currently, I’m very excited about virtual and augmented reality technologies and how they can help us bridge the gap between physical interactions and the digital world.