Playful Learning Lab staff

Creating engaging, hands-on experiences for K-12 students, with an emphasis on real-world applications of the materials covered in the University of St. Thomas engineering department. Below are the students working within the Playful Learning Lab, as well as laboratory alumni..

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DR. annmarie thomas

The founder and director of the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas, Dr. AnnMarie Thomas is passionate about creating engaging learning environments for learners and educators.

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dr. deb besser

The director of the University of St. Thomas Center for Engineering Education and a research affiliate in the Playful Learning Lab where she directs our educational research efforts.

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Hannah Brodersen

(Electrical Engineering and Physics, '18) is on the Code+Chords development team. Currently she is working on developing new and interesting ways to communicate music through visuals.

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valerie brown

(Mechanical Engineering ’20) is a Mechanical Engineering major at University of St Thomas working as a peer mentor for the Engineering Graphics and Design class.

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Alyssa Eggersgluss

(Vocal K-12 Music Education ‘20) is a member of the OK Go Sandbox and Code & Chords teams. She’s working to develop educational tools from both projects for teachers in K-12 classrooms. 

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Rachel Farah

(Computer Engineering, ‘21) Member of the OK Go Sandbox project for playful learning lab. Aims to incorporate aspects of her robotics background in her experiments.

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Hannah French

(Mechanical Engineering ’20)  is a Mechanical Engineering major at University of St. Thomas, currently working on the OkGo Sandbox project as project manager and as a peer mentor for the Engineering Graphics and Design class (ENGR 171).

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Collin Goldbach

(Mechanical Engineering '20) is working on the OK Go Sandbox to bring creative learning exercises to K-12 classrooms and seeks to apply engineering principles to hobbies like blacksmithing and tool-making.

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Paige Huschka

(Mechanical Engineering '20) is a member of the Code + Chords Tech Team, creating and teaching a program that explores coding and how it can be incorporated into music.

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Abby Jagiela

(Mechanical Engineering '19) is a sophomore, Majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Abby is Lead Engineer on the Chord and Chords: Teen Tech Program.

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Lizzy Johnson

(Mechanical Engineering '20) is a Peer Mentor for Engineering Graphics and Design.

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Jenna Laleman

(Elementary Education and STEM, psychology minor '18) is working on projects (including our STEPS program)focusing on developing lessons that encourage hands-on, fun ways for students to engage in engineering activities.

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Daniel Mahota

(Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science Minor '19) is a member of the Code & Chords team. He is passionate about problem solving, creativity, and exploring artistic expression through technology.

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Emily Meuer

(Computer Science '18, Music and Catholic Studies minors) is on the Code+Chords team, where she is bringing together her love for music and computers to build a tool for real-time music visualization.

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Anna Miller

(Elementary Education and STEM, Engineering Education minor '20)  Anna is an education student helping with the STEPS program this summer, and looks forward to getting involved in additional programs this fall. 

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Austin Otto

(Mechanical Engineering ’19) has been designing and building 3D printers since high school. Austin is the student lab manager for University of St Thomas Engineering rapid prototyping space.

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Molly Roche

(Elementary Education ’20) is a member of the OK Go Sandbox Team. She is merging passions for music and teaching by working to help provide hands-on, STEAM-focused content for educators.

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Elena Ryan

(Computer Science '18) is a member of the Code & Chords team.  She's passionate about solving problems and making beautiful things happen with beautiful code.

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Esmee Verschoor

(Communications & Journalism ’20) is working as a graphic designer for the Playful Learning Lab. She is focusing on designing engaging and creative content for lab projects including OK Go Sandbox and the Center for Engineering Education. 


Affiliated educators

Jill Jensen

With 20+ years in science education, Jensen is now a K-5 Science Specialist at Glacier Hills Elementary School of Arts & Science, where she works to inspire students, staff and community members to find the joy in science, engineering, art, nature and technology.

Allison Knoph

Allison has been teaching in elementary classrooms for seventeen years.  She is passionate about helping transform the experience of education, and loves connecting students to inspiring projects and people.

Cindy Nordstrom

A 5th grade teacher and school board member, Cindy loves integrating Design Thinking into curricula, offering students the tools to solve real-life problems in a collaborative way.