Dr. Leah Buechley

Leah Buechley is a designer, engineer, and educator. Her work explores intersections and juxtapositions of 'high' and 'low' technologies, new and ancient materials, and masculine and feminine making traditions. Her inventions include the LilyPad Arduino toolkit. She currently runs a design firm that explores beautiful and playful integrations of technology and design. Previously, she was an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, where she founded and directed the High-Low Tech group. Her work has been exhibited internationally in venues including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Ars Electronica Festival, and the Exploratorium, and has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Boston Globe, Popular Science, and Wired. Leah received a PhD in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BA in physics from Skidmore College. At both institutions she also studied dance, theater, fine art, and design.


Expressive Computing: Computer science is a deeply creative and expressive medium, one that I love and stumbled on almost by accident. I studied physics, dance, and photography and lived as a “starving artist" in NYC before discovering computer science. It is an amazingly flexible medium, one that enables me to integrate my fascinations with art, science, and engineering in surprising and beautiful ways. In this talk I’ll describe my journey from dance major to computer science PhD. I’ll share what I love about the discipline and also some of my frustrations with CS and engineering communities. I’ll explore the rewards and challenges of working in computing as a researcher, designer, artist, and educator.

Dr. Yolanda A. Rankin

Yolanda A. Rankin Yolanda is currently an Assistant Professor in the College of Communication & Information at Florida State University. Her research interests include identifying best practices and pedagogical strategies for Computer Science (CS) education K-16, utilizing videogames to promote Second Language Acquisition (SLA), and engaging members of underserved population in participatory design of information-based technologies. As the recipient of the 2016 Woodrow Wilson Junior Faculty Fellowship, she explores in-game social interactions between conversational game characters and foreign language students and their role in SLA. Yolanda accumulated more than twelve years of industry experience. She developed software applications to support geographically distributed employees who provide IT services during her tenure at IBM Research Lab – Almaden. As a project manager and a software engineer at Lucent Technologies Bell Labs, Yolanda developed and deployed wireless features and applications for multiple service providers. She has published more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, including journal articles, conference papers and books. Yolanda’s most recent book, Moving Students of Color from Consumers to Producers of Technology, emphasizes strategies for broadening participation of underrepresented groups in CS. Yolanda completed her Ph.D. in Computer Science at Northwestern University, her M.A. in Computer Science at Kent State University and her B.S. in Mathematics at Tougaloo College, a historically Black college in Mississippi.


In-Game Social Interactions that Facilitate Second Language Acquisition In comparison to self-paced tutorials, commercial videogames create an immersive learning environment that allows students to experience the virtual world through sight, sound, participation and imagination. Research shows that one particular genre of videogames, Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), provides opportunities for native and non-native speakers to interact with one another during gameplay. Gameplay experiences in MMORPGs are such that language is a means for accomplishing the game tasks and contributes to Second Language Acquisition (SLA), one’s ability to read, write, listen and speak in a targeted language. In contrast, educational videogames intentionally designed for SLA, tend to lack the element of fun or entertainment necessary to sustain learning over time. I posit that we can learn from players’ experiences in both commercial and educational videogames to understand which design elements and aspects of gameplay actually facilitate SLA. Consequently, I examine game dialogue between native English speakers and English as Second Language (ESL) in the popular MMORPG EverQuest2 to understand how these social interactions facilitate ESL students’ proficiency. Next, I examine the gameplay experiences of African American women playing an educational videogame to identify design elements that create inclusive learning environments for diverse players. Finally, I talk about the role of in-game social interactions as a framework for designing conversational game characters to promote students’ proficiency in the targeted language.

InWIC’s Keynote Speakers are funded by CRA-W’s Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS), which brings prominent faculty and industry researchers to campuses across the U.S. The purpose of these visits is to provide inspiring role models that will encourage students to pursue research in computer science and engineering. Visit their website for more information.