Cacti Council was founded by educators to promote critical and creative thinking.

Jeremiah Blanchard

I’m currently an instructor at the University of Florida in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department, where I am also researching computer science education. Previously, I served as Program Director over Game Development at Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida (in the greater Orlando area), where I’d worked for 10 years and taught the Artificial Intelligence for Games and Game Networking courses before moving into administration. Before coming to Full Sail, I worked as a freelance game and application developer and lived, worked, and studied in the Osaka region of Japan. I speak fluent conversational Japanese. I graduated from the University of Florida with my MS in Computer Engineering and am currently working on my PhD there (estimated completion in 2018.) I have a passion for the education and computer science fields and am particularly interested in the nexus of these important topics (and game development as it relates to these topics.) I am currently studying how young children can effectively learn programming languages by analyzing the languages themselves in an attempt to identify, test, and mitigate built-assumptions that may limit or hinder the learning process at early ages. My work has convinced me that we frequently underestimate the abilities of children, and that motivation is a key determination of success. Previously, I have worked on educational and serious games. This includes work with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida, with whom I worked to develop flight simulator scenarios to help teach at-risk middle and high school students mathematics, physics, and history. I’ve also worked with Design Interactive on CogGauge, a game-based cognitive battery system developed on grant funding from NASA with the intention of testing brain injuries in space.

Haifa Maamar

I am currently the Program Director for Game Development BS, Software Development BS and Mobile Gaming MS at Full Sail University, and a former Department Chair and Course Director. Before coming to Full Sail, I was a Software Analyst at the Montreal Stock Exchange TMX and lived, worked and studied in Ottawa Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I speak fluent French, as it is my mother tongue. I completed my PhD in Computer and Electrical Engineering from the University of Ottawa, Ontario Canada in December 2012 with a focus on mobile networks and mixed reality. My research and teaching interests have been strengthened by several years of undergraduate and graduate teaching at both Full Sail University and Ottawa U.  My ongoing mission and passion is about promoting women in programming. To achieve this, I contributed and delivered computer science outreach programs in the community and tried to engage girls in computer science. I co-founded Cacti Council, a non profit organization, dedicated to promote creative and critical thinking concepts in education, especially in computer science. I am also the co-founder of Women Of Full Sail Group dedicated to engendering empowerment for women, by creating a space of support and mentorship for the women attending (and working at) Full Sail University. During my graduate work, I was fortunate enough to have diverse research interests. My doctoral research focused on analyzing wireless multimedia, specifically 3D streaming over thin mobile devices. My Masters thesis focused on collaborative virtual environments (CVE). Co-supervising masters students during my PhD has diversified my research areas even more, given that the students were interested in different subjects such as Augmented Reality, Vehicular Ad-hoc Networks (VANET) based class of applications as well as Network Security.

Joe Del Rocco

Hello, world! I am a Graduate Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant at the University of Central Florida, pursuing my PhD in computer science with a focus on building performance. Formerly, I lectured on computer science, programming, and software topics (and sometimes did admin work) at Full Sail University. I’ve authored and taught various courses over the years pertaining to computer science, programming, computing history, engineering, capstone projects, etc., and mentored many students, mostly undergraduate and a few graduate. Teaching computer science and programming to many age groups in many facilities has been the most cherished/rewarding part of my career. I’ve taught university students for years; participated in Code.org‘s Hour of Code with K-12 students and faculty; spoken to middle and high school students about computer science, software engineering, and STEM; and contributed to outreach programs with the same focus, like the one you’re visiting now! My industry programming career includes independent and commercial game development, Department of Defense simulation and visualization, power diagnostics for the power generation industry, and eDiscovery. As a teacher, I still develop scripts, tools, and programs as needed to help with day to day maintenance and provide good examples for the students.

Rob Coble 

I have spent the past 12 years working in Career Services primarily in the tech and gaming industries. 11 of those were spent working with students, alumni and industry partners. I found a passion helping students understand the importance of good professional demeanor and helping them hone their networking and communication skills. I love creating and facilitating community, helping my students manage their careers and identifying top tier talent for my many industry partners. Prior to my work in Education I spent 20 years in the Music Industry. After many years in music retail I went on to work with the I.R.S. Record Label as a Regional Marketing Manager, Valley Media as a Senior Product Manager and finally 5 years with the Universal Music Group as Regional Director for Florida and then Los Angeles. I was responsible for all sales and marketing in these regions leading a team of 20. I worked closely with the many label groups we served and artists as diverse as U2, Eminem, Reba McEntire and Andrea Bocelli amongst many others. I had the opportunity to lead an amazing staff that was recognized for their incredible marketing efforts while spearheading many corporate partnerships including the Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers, Shell Oil, Walgreens and Seagram Americas. I am currently involved as a member of the Board of Directors for the nonprofit Cacti Council as well as Orlando area conferences Orlando iX and Otronicon. I love what I do: Connecting People. Nothing makes me happier than watching people conquer their fears and realize their dreams. I love meeting people. Networking is not something that should be feared. You don’t have to be an extrovert. You can stay true to who you are and still successfully network with other professional who share your same passions.

Volunteers!

Most of our volunteers are university students and teachers, while some are local industry programmers, mentors, etc. Some of our previous student volunteers include: Pablo Bernal-Alarcon, Josh Stevens, John Sermarini, Kris Soto, Brennan Rodriguez, Matt Moody, Mike Lillo, Jessica John, Tyler Yeary, Anthony Benito, and many more! Quite frankly, without volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to reach as many people as we do. So if you’d like to contribute to our cause, we’re always looking for more volunteers!