Inside DELTA: 5 Questions with Ben Huckaby
Gamification, music and cycling are a few things that Ben Huckaby gets excited about. He uses these unique talents to ultimately make people smile, raise money for charity and help students to better understand course material.
Since joining DELTA 10 years ago as a multimedia specialist, Huckaby has seen the organization grow from around 40 staff members to close to 100 and noted the experience was “pretty incredible.” Now in his role as Lead Interaction Designer/Developer, Huckaby works to create games and animations for online and face-to-face courses.
How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with DELTA?
“I work with a talented team of colleagues to help faculty get their courses online, mostly by designing and developing games and online interactions for education. That could mean doing anything and everything from creating an entire video game to producing a 2- or 3D animation all the way to some website design and development,” said Huckaby.
What has been your most recent favorite project you’ve worked on?
“Most recently it has been my role in the Home Horticulture (HS 200) project with Lee Ivy,” said Huckaby. The specific media deliverable he was in charge of was creating a simulation of a soil sampling and analysis activity that students had to do for the face-to-face class. Students chose a plot of soil to be their garden for the semester and they sent samples to the N.C. Department of Agriculture for an analysis. The problems arose when students received their feedback and had trouble interpreting the results to fit their own plot of soil.
“We ended up developing a 3D environment using the Unity game engine where students had to sample three different areas of their garden, fill out replicas of the soil sample sheets for each area and the plant to be grown there, and then use the returned soil analysis report to calculate exactly how much of various organic and inorganic fertilizers and additives needed to be added to create the best possible environment for their plants,” said Huckaby.
The interactive worksheets gave students a guide and prepared them to do the activity on their own. Huckaby noted the project has received positive feedback so far. “Not only was this a cool way to do some heavy development in Unity, but it also became a tool that was really helping students to better understand the content,” said Huckaby.
What is your area of expertise?
“Ever since I first interviewed for this job I wanted to be working with using games for education, and that passion and expertise is still what I get most pumped about here,” said Huckaby. He has been involved in several game and gamification projects here at DELTA. “I am always on the lookout for more, especially as we start diving deeper into virtual reality and its applications for learning,” said Huckaby.
In addition to game development, Huckaby noted interaction development and 3D modeling and animation are his other areas of expertise. “Having Bachelor degrees in both Computer Science and Art + Design puts me in the position of being equally comfortable with code or design, so I absolutely enjoy working in either area,” said Huckaby.
What makes your job special?
“The people of DELTA are absolutely what I enjoy most,” said Huckaby. He enjoys and values the teamwork and camaraderie found in the office. “I love being able to chat and laugh with my friends (aka co-workers) all while creating innovative solutions to instructional problems,” said Huckaby.
The varied and interesting projects and the constantly evolving challenges they present were a close second for Huckaby when answering why his job is special. Huckaby also noted enjoying projects where he can create a hands-on experience for students. “I love the challenge of trying to think of and develop around every way a user can interact with something we’ve created and then turning it loose to find students learning from it in ways we may have never thought of,” said Huckaby.
What do you like to do in your spare time/outside of work?
“I tend to have more hobbies than time, though I would say that my biggest one is probably mixing (or DJing) under the alias nullstrukt,” said Huckaby. He is a resident DJ and co-organizer of the local electronic dance music event group Sonic Sphere.
Huckaby helped organize Sonic Sphere’s first charity benefit show where instead of a door fee, donations were collected for the Alzheimer’s Association. “This is something I wanted to do for ages, and it was a huge success and raised nearly $700 for charity,” said Huckaby. The next charity show will benefit the SPCA of Wake County.
“Working with people in the electronic dance music scene is very different from people here at DELTA,” said Huckaby. He noted having experience with those people and with organizing charity events helps him bring back those communication and leadership skills to DELTA to connect and communicate with different groups of people. “I like harmony, and anything I can do and any skills I can gain to promote that harmony and teamwork, that’s what I’m going to strive to do,” said Huckaby.
Also an avid cyclist, Huckaby participates in the 24 Hours of Booty, a cycling event that raises money for the Levine Cancer Institute and other charitable organizations. Huckaby shows up to work and attends all his meetings in full cycling gear to raise money for the event. “It’s a fun way to help with fundraising and gets people from different departments together for a good cause,” said Huckaby.
“I love being able to use my talents to help others, whether that is here at DELTA developing engaging educational content, getting a crowd dancing for a good cause, or whatever else!” said Huckaby.