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Meet the Project eSPAC3 Team

We bring together a team of scientists, educational technologists, educators, and career development experts to create an innovative learning experience.





Perla Myers, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Jacobs Institute

for Innovation in Education

Dr. Perla Myers, Professor of Mathematics  at the University of San Diego (USD) earned her B.S. in Mathematics from the University of Houston with Honors, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Myers is passionate about achieving equity in education and diversifying the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, and feels that one step towards these goals is changing the reaction people have when they hear the word mathematics to a smile.

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Lisa Dawley, Ph.D.

Senior Innovation Fellow, Jacobs Institute

for Innovation in Education

With over 30 years of experience in educational technology, Dr. Lisa Dawley provides leadership in the award-winning research, design and entrepreneurship of innovative learning technologies and organizations. Dr. Dawley is a Senior Innovation Fellow, and former Executive Director, of the Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education at the USD. Dr. Dawley is committed to creating access for inclusive innovation among teachers and learners, and co-invented Pactful, a social good innovation app for teenagers. 


Wanli Xing, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor,

University of Florida

Dr. Xing's researches how emerging technologies can deeply transform STEM education and online learning. He creates learning environments using cutting-edge technologies, such as computer simulations and modeling, artificial intelligence, internet of things, and augmented reality to support learning in diverse classrooms and online environments. He also designs and applies data mining and machine learning to understand, assess, and optimize the learning process and the environments in which it occurs.

Research Team Members

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Adan Escobedo Sanchez, Ph.D.

eSPAC3 Project Manager, Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education

Dr. Escobedo Sanchez is an educator with passion for supporting underrepresented communities with STEAM projects. He has over 10 years of experience in imaginative program design , develops online curriculum for alternative education institutions, and utilizes educational technology. Dr. Escobedo Sanchez has won the San Diego County Office of Education's STEM Champion award two years in a row, as well as the San Diego Squared STEAM educator award.


 Dr. Lisa Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Director of Research,  Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education

Dr. Lisa Smith holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with specializations in Research Methods & Statistics and Gifted Studies from Ball State University. Before coming to the University of San Diego, she was a Postdoctoral Associate with the Research & Evaluation team at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program. Her primary research interests include how learners adapt their self-regulated learning processes to meet task demands, including how students respond to challenge.


Zifeng Liu

Peducational research and technology development, University of Florida

Zifeng is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Educational Technology at the College of Education, University of Florida. She holds a Master's degree in Computer Software and Theories, which she earned at Beijing Normal University, China. Zifeng is passionate about educational games and researching how technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented reality can be used to support teaching and learning.

Project Partners

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Sarah Burns

Director of Learning

San Diego Workforce Partnership 

Sarah has over a decade of combined experience in the fields of education, workforce development, and leadership development. As the Director of Learning at the San Diego Workforce Partnership, Sarah infuses career development best practices into the programs offered by the publicly funded workforce development system and its network of providers.  Sarah leverages her professional practice and degrees in economics and math education to support successful labor market outcomes for San Diegans, with a passion for students and the younger workforce. 


Sandra Y. Candler-Wafer

Family and Community Engagement Supervisor, Cajon Valley Union School District

Sandra Candler Wafer, Family and Community Engagement Supervisor. From her early career in Information Tech and serving in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, Sandra has always been a leader with a desire to help those around her. After achieving a B.S. in Organizational Leadership and transitioning to Community Organizing and Engagement, she continues to thrive. Currently, her role within the Cajon Valley Union School District with 14 itinerant Bilingual Community Liaisons is the most rewarding.  


Chloe Chen

Learning & Experience Designer

San Diego Workforce Partnership

Chloe has over a decade of combined experience in the fields of education, workforce development, and technology. As the Learning Experience Designer at the San Diego Workforce Partnership, Chloe works with schools and community organizations to infuse career development best practices into their day-to-day work. 


Adam Clarke


Adam Clarke is a professional artist who uses video games, traditional art and digital technology to inspire and entertain, working internationally with institutions, museums, charities and other organisations. He is a global speaker on the uses of Minecraft, video gaming, and creative digital technology and how playing can open to learning and discovery and enable a new generation of creators, thinkers and agents of social change. Speaking engagements have included Being a Man Festival, London; Museum Next, NYC; CultureGeek, London; Sonar Festival, Barcelona; CMC, Quebec. He is the creative driving force behind numerous  Minecraft groundbreaking projects.


Chris Collins

Data and Assessment Coordinator

Cajon Valley Union School District


Ed Hidalgo

Senior Researcher

Project Partners


Ian Martin, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of San Diego

Dr. Ian Martin in an Associate Professor of Counseling at the University of San Diego where he teaches courses in school counseling and career development. Prior to becoming a counselor educator, he was a school counselor in Portland, OR. Dr. Martin has published and presented on such topics as program development, program evaluation, and policy within school counseling.


David Miyashiro, Ed.D.


Cajon Valley Union School District

Dr. David Miyashiro is a forward-thinking, award-winning education leader with a 17-year career spent revolutionizing learning approaches, education models, and school district capabilities in Southern California. As a digital pioneer, he has navigated districts into the hi-tech era, delivering numerous innovation “firsts,” for which he has garnered professional honors. 


John Wright


John Wright is a talented multi-instrumentalist, music producer, and composer. He is also a passionate Minecraft producer who has assisted in the Creative process of several high-profile Minecraft Education projects. John's musical soundtracks breathe life and energy into any project providing a unique sonic identity and personality. Recent projects include work for The Crown Estate in the UK, Oerrr in the Netherlands, (Netherlands book week), and The International Judo Federation

Project Partners

Advisory Board

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David  Blustein, Ph.D.

Professor and Golden Eagle Faculty Fellow

Boston College

David L. Blustein is a Professor and the Golden Eagle Faculty Fellow in the Department of Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology at Boston College. Dr. Blustein has contributed numerous articles and book chapters on psychology of working theory, unemployment, career development/counseling, psychotherapy, decent work, dignity at work, precarious work, relationships and work, social class, race, and other aspects of contemporary working.


Laylah Bulman

Senior Program Manager 

Minecraft Education at Microsoft

Senior Business PM and Content Producer for Minecraft: Education Edition, responsible for programming and development of Computer Science, Cyber, Cloud, Digital Citizenship and Esports content and product for M:EE. Global expert in immersive, game-based STEM education and scholastic esports for K12 and higher ed. Strategic thinker with bold, entrepreneurial approach to solving problems and creating new solutions for better teaching and learning.


Catherine Cavanaugh, Ph.D.

Family and Community Engagement Supervisor, Cajon Valley Union School District

Catherine Cavanaugh is Assistant Professor in educational technology and science education at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, USA. She has been an educator in K-12 schools and higher education for 20 years. Cathy received degrees in education from the University of the Virgin Islands, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida, and she did postdoctoral work as Assistant Director of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology. 


Marcela Davison Aviles


Managing Partner

TomKat MeDiA 


Yaoran (Aloran) Li, Ph.D.

Senior Project Manager



Joel Alejandro “Alex” Mejia, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Texas at San Antonio

Dr. Joel Alejandro (Alex) Mejia is an Associate Professor with joint appointment in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies and the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at San Antonio. His current work seeks to analyze and describe the assets, tensions, contradictions, and cultural collisions many Latino/a/x students experience in engineering through testimonios. 


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