Our Team

Current Collaborators

Dr. Laura K. Dillon, Director


I am a professor in Computer Science and Engineering, where I help advise MSU Women in Computing. I also do research on formal methods in software engineering and I teach programming. I have been baffled and dismayed over the years to see interest in computing decline--especially among women and people of color--at the same time that our society has become increasingly dependent on computing technology. I agree with organizations like NCWIT and code.org, which say we need to start much earlier than college to hook students on computing. I helped conceive of this project because I want to ignite the imaginations of K-12 students in Michigan. Computing is fun. It is creative. It improves peoples' lives. And it is something anyone can learn. What's not to like about it?

Alison Dobbins, Director


I received my M.F.A. in Digital Cinema from National University and my A.B. in Mathematics from Oberlin College. My recent work includes projection designs for original works such as Ernie, and U.P. and re-imagined works such as Peter Pan. I am the founder of the Media Theatre Performance Laboratory and creator of the Theatre Engine research project. My focus in media design is integrating elements of dance, media, music, theatre and computer science in performance. Dancing Computer is an interpretation of Theatre Engine where the concepts of performance help students explore principles of computing.

Dr. Charles Owen, Director


I am an associate professor of Computer Science at Michigan State University, where I direct the Media and Entertainment Technologies Laboratory. My research interests include virtual and augmented reality, computer graphics, and accessible technologies. I have over eighty publications in these and other areas and have received numerous teaching awards. I worked for more than a decade in broadcasting prior to returning to academia and completed my Ph.D. in Computer Science at Dartmouth College in 1998. My interests in teaching motivated me to conceive of this project. We typically teach children to read human languages before we teach them to write. The idea behind this project is that we should similarly teach children to read computer languages before teaching them to write code and that by learning to read a simple program and pretend to be a computer, children will better understand how computers work.

Max Evjen, Museum Evaluator


I am an Academic Specialist at Michigan State University in the Department of Theatre, teaching in Arts and Cultural Management, and in the MSU Museum as Exhibitions Technology Specialist. I previously worked with the Center for Science and the Imagination at Arizona State University and with the Phoenix Art Museum in designing activity stations and the evaluation of the Leonardo Da Vinci's Codex Leicester and the Power of Observation exhibition. Before that I was the Director of Learning Programs at the Shedd Aquarium, where I supervised 25 onsite, offsite, and online programs that each included evaluation. My role in Dancing Computer is to advise on the strategy and to design and conduct the evaluation plan for the implementation of the project at Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing.

David Kanouse, Technologist and Choreographer


I am technologist, choreographer and former professional dancer. I have always been intrigued by the possibilities that technology can bring to dance and movement in general. Programming technologies have really advanced in the last decade. So much so, that I believe the next wave of software development will be applications in the physical world, not just crunching and providing information. The Dancing Computer project is a perfect expression of this development with a great cause to generate interest and understand of computer programming to the youth of Michigan. I am very happy and honored to be a member of this group.

Dr. William Sallak, Music Composer

Bill is a percussionist, technologist, scholar, Associate Professor of Dance at Kent State University, and member of the Akros Percussion Collective. His work has appeared at numerous international venues; recent and upcoming appearances include the International Conference on Minimalist Music (Helsinki), Transplanted Roots (Montreal), the International Deep Listening Art/Science Conference (Troy, NY), and the Percussive Arts Society International Conferences. His research interests include experimental music for percussion, integrated performance technology, phenomenologies of performative silence, and the music of Stuart Saunders Smith. He lives, plays chess, and drinks coffee in Kent, OH.

Shannon T. Schweitzer, Lighting Designer


Shannon is Assistant Professor of Lighting Design at Michigan State University. Recent designs include the media for Williamston's The Big Bang and lighting for The Best Brothers, Rounding Third, and Sirens, as well as lighting for MSU's Xanadu, Peter Pan, and Hair. He has served as the Resident Lighting Designer for Theater of Youth in Buffalo and Ohio Light Opera, where this past summer he designed lights for Yeoman of the Guard and Friederike. In NYC Shannon worked with Playwrights Horizons, The Public Theatre, Theatre Ten Ten and The Zipper Theatre to name a few. Shannon received two ACTF awards in Lighting Design for Tea and Sympathy and The Children's Hour as well as The Lansing State Journal award for Best Set Design for The House of Blue Leaves and Pulsar nominations for his designs of Peter Pan and Hair. Shannon has most recently served as Assistant Professor of Design at Buffalo State College for six years. www.shannonschweitzerdesigns.com

Alex "Lex" van Blommestein, Scenic Designer


Lex is an Assistant Professor of Scenic Design in the Department of Theatre at Michigan State University. Lex previously taught and designed at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. Professionally he has designed for The Black Rep - The Real McCoy, HotCity Theatre - Slasher, Oleanna and Whammy!, St. Louis Shakespeare Company - Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice, Insight Theatre - The Glass Menagerie, as well as Cincinnati Shakespeare Company - A Comedy of Errors, Arms and The Man, The Lion in Winter, Miss Julie and Othello. In the Raleigh area, Lex designed for Justice Theatre Project - Ragtime, Cape Fear Regional Theatre - Little Mermaid Jr. and A Fiddler on the Roof, Theatre Raleigh/ Hot Summer Nights - The Fox on the Fairway, CSV Flamboyan Theatre NYC Fringe - Whammy, and Deep Dish Theatre - Life is a Dream. www.avbdesigns.net

Brad Willcuts, Choreographer


Brad Willcuts, Assistant Professor of Dance and Musical Theatre, received his BA from Minnesota State University and MFA in Theatre Performance Pedagogy emphasizing in Musical Theatre and Movement from Virginia Commonwealth University. He is a proud member of Actor's Equity Association and Associate Member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. As a Choreographer, Brad's most recent credit is on the Broadway Musical Amazing Grace currently running at the Nederlander Theatre in New York where he served as Assistant Fight and Military Movement Director for the show. He served as the same position for the show's former iteration at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago for the "Broadway in Chicago" run.

Current Student Researchers

Noah Keppers


I'm a Freshman majoring in Computer Science and Experience Architecture, and am a part of the programming team for Dancing Computer. I first learned about coding in elementary school and have loved working with technology ever since. I hope the Dancing Computer will spark this same interest in others by helping children discover the field of Computer Science for the first time. So far, I have learned a lot from this project, and I can't wait to see where it takes me next!

Grant King


I am a Senior in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. In addition to this project, I have spent the previous year as the president of Michigan State University's chapter of Tau Beta Pi, the national engineering honor society, and working as a teaching assistant. The Dancing Computer project caught my attention as a new and interactive means of getting K-12 students involved in computing as early as possible. My personal experience with computing did not begin until the very end of high school, and I cannot wait to see the benefits of this additional early exposure.

Becca Hayes

I'm a PhD Candidate in Rhetoric and Writing, pursuing certifications in museum studies and community engagement. For Dancing Computer, I'm working on the evaluation of the Impression 5 installation. Growing up, I danced 6-10 hours a week in the studio, not to mention at home practice hours and school dance teams. More recently, I've been teaching (and assessing and evaluating) writing at the college level for about eight years, and, about two years ago, I started dabbling in coding, slowly, very slowly, making my way through online courses for HTML, CSS, Javascript, and PHP. As someone interested in learning and public programming in museums, I'm excited to see many of my seemingly disparate interests merge in my work with Dancing Computer.

Paige Henderson


I am a junior at Michigan State University double majoring in Computer Science and Arabic. I also have a minor in German. I am the current Lean In Co-Chair for MSU's Women in Computing club. My role in this project is developing the sound system. Sound, along with lights, help to make the entire project much more engaging and fun for students. Computer science is an excellent field to go into, because it offers so many opportunities. It is important for students to realize this long before college. No matter what your passion is, computer science can be applied to that passion in some way.

Lauren Kelley, Web Master/ Graphic Designer


I am a Junior in Media and Information, concentrating in Interactive and Social Media, with a minor in Graphic Design. For this research project I am the web master and graphic designer. I remember when I was little and my mother would show me what she was doing at work (she is a programmer for Auto Owners) and I always thought it was awesome. So I believe that if we begin teaching these children programming young they will be more interested in the field later on.

Nicole Lawrence, Android Developer


I'm a senior at Michigan State University currently majoring in Computer Science and Engineering with a cognate in Media and Information. I am the current webmaster of MSU's Women in Computing (WIC) club. I update and maintain the club site plus my own personal website outside of class. I got into computer science in high school and haven't looked back. I like how you can turn seemingly meaningless letters and numbers into something wonderful; whether it is a website or a mobile app. The list of possibilities is endless!

Olivia Miller


I am a Sophomore in Computer Science with a cognate in Business. I have wanted to be an engineer since elementary school when my parents bought me tools and circuit kits and encouraged me to create new things with them. I believe that engineering is a lot of fun and it's never too early for kids to be introduced to the new realm of creativity it opens.

Olivia Pascente


I am a Sophomore here at MSU, majoring in Elementary Education with a specialization in Mathematics and a minor in ELL. I have wanted to be a teacher every since I went to school and I never changed my mind. I am one of the choreographers for this project and I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to be a part of this program. I was a competitive dancer my whole life. I started at the age of 2 and stopped when I came to college. I also danced for my school and got the privilege of being the president of our dance group my senior year. Dance has always been a part of my life, so I am happy to have this project to continue my passion for it.

Kristin Pebbles


My name is Kristin Pebbles and I am a senior at MSU pursuing a degree in Elementary Education with an Integrated Science teaching major. For this project, I am one of the choreographers, in which I help out with the dance literacy portion of the project. I was a competitive dancer since the age of seven and have had a passion for dancing ever since. I truly enjoy being a part of this project because I am able to continue to express my creativity in dance as well as work with students in a classroom setting.

Matthew Rhodes


I am currently a freshman at Michigan State University, my major is Computer Science and I am also trying to obtain a minor in innovation and entrepreneurship. For this project I am currently assigned to help with the coding for specific software and provide support in anyway possible. Computer Science is the way of the future and I believe that it is the key to success. Everything these days is becoming technology based and if one can master the art of technology they will have the ability to do almost anything. I want to learn as much as I can during my time here so I can help teach children the way of the future in hopes that they fall in love with programming the same way I did.

Scott Swarthout

Our Team