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Inside DELTA: Five Questions with Stephen Waddell

He’s the friendly face behind the weekly coffee chat emails.

Stephen Waddell joined DELTA about two and a half years ago, first as a part-time media developer, and now as a full-time immersive media developer on the new media team.

Originally from Thomasville, North Carolina, Waddell earned his degree in art + design from NC State. However, he started his time as an undergrad pursuing computer science, which gives him a unique dual-perspective for his position now.

“I think it worked out pretty well,” Waddell said.

How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with DELTA?

“I would say that I have a combination of development work involving implementing immersive media ideas into classrooms as well as exploratory work involved with finding and being aware of new technologies and evaluating them,” Waddell said.

Waddell said he spends his days “finding answers to specific questions,” related to grant projects, different technology platforms or media.

What is the most challenging aspect of your position?

“I deal with a lot of uncertainty about what technologies can do, especially regarding what a vendor wants to tell you about their technology versus what is actually true,” Waddell said. “It can often be very different, so sometimes, it means chasing an idea all the way to a dead end. Then, having to back up and figure out where to go next.”

 What makes your job special?

“I think I have a fairly unique position here,” Waddell said. “There aren’t a lot of places where you can say that you do a ton of exploration, apart from research, so I really enjoy the ability to be learning continuously.”

He also emphasized the role his team plays in making his position so great.

Waddell in Atlanta, Georgia

“I really rely on the team that I’m in,” he said. “It’s a tremendous working environment, especially the people in my immediate team. They’ve been a massive help in every project I’ve been on. It’s a huge change from my earlier days. The first kind of work I did involved a bunch of freelancing and immersive media for in-game design. It’s been wonderful working at DELTA by comparison.”

What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on at DELTA?

Waddell’s favorite project was the graphic design theory AR app project, which involved using image-tracking-based augmented reality on a graphic design theory textbook to help students gain a stronger understanding of the content.

“The concern at the time was that students were getting this book about design theory, and they would kind of understand it, but they wouldn’t really get into it enough to really get the concepts,” Waddell said. “They read over it and were able to take the test, but they wouldn’t really learn these things in an intuitive way.”

To tackle this challenge, the DELTA team used new technologies to bring the textbook to life with a number of interactive pieces. The project was a huge success with students and instructors.

“It was an awesome combination of technologies. We were exploring things that we already had a feel for, and there was some really great work from all of the people on our team,” Waddell said. “It came together to be a great showcase of what we had to offer for new and immersive media.”

What do you like to do in your spare time outside of work?

Waddell and his friends in Washington, D.C.

“I like to have a bunch of different projects and hobbies; I’ll often find something new and just immerse myself into it,” Waddell said. “For a while it was espresso and coffee roasting or occasionally brewing beer. It’s a lot of fun. Recently, I’ve been putting together electronic instruments, like synthesizers. That’s been pretty neat. Usually, I’ll just pick something, and that becomes the next project.”

Waddell’s most recent project was soldering a grid for a Monome Norns, which he described as “just a bunch of buttons in an array.”

 Additionally, Waddell has an interest in pottery, although he has not kept up with it as much in recent years. He used to teach a class on how to make clay flutes at the NC State Crafts Center.