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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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 and the Code & Chords team for playful learning lab. Aims to incorporate her love of teaching students in her work.

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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.

Mikyla Harjamaki 

(Mechanical Engineer , Mathematics Minor '21) is majoring in Mechanical Engineer and minoring in Mathematics. She is the lab operations manager and assisting with all of the Playful Learning Lab's projects. 

Kristina Harfmann

(Computer Science '21) is on the Code+Chords team, where she is using her love for choir and coding experience to advance software.

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Lizzy Johnson

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

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.