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Lab Members

Lab Director

Melanie Baljko

Melanie serves as the director of the PiET lab.  Her faculty website can be found here:

Current Members

Ryan Collis

Role: Graduate Student, Doctoral Level
Projects: Accessible Making for Assistive Technology (AM4AT)

Ryan Collis, OCT is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education, working with a interdisciplinary superivisory committee. He completed a Master’s Degree student in Science and Technology Studies at York University. He has a BA in English Language and Literature (Queen’s 1999), a BScH in Computer Science and Information Technology (Queen’s 2000), a BEd in Intermediate and Senior Education (OISE/University of Toronto 2005), and a BScH in Science and Technology Studies (York, 2019). He is an autistic researcher who looks at how expertise in autism research and policy is negotiated, and how experts on autism (actually autistic people) and experts in other fields can cooperate in the creation of knowledge. He is also interested in how the hidden, unspoken rules of society prevent the full participation of autistics.

Raghad El-Shebiny

Role: Graduate Student, Masters Level
Projects: Inclusion and Access in Educational Technology

Riggy is working on a masters research project on the design and evaluation of a novel tangible interactive artefacts for use in STEM teaching and learning. She is specializing in Computational Arts and Human Interaction Design. She has a passion for educational design and finding new and innovative ways to use current technologies to enhance the student experience and making positive change. She served as the Digital Media Graduate Student Association Co-chair during, as well as the Graduate Student Representative on the Department of Computational Arts Assembly. She is the recipient of the CGS-SSHRC Grant in Fall 2021. She has published and presented papers on her collaborative work on the redesign of the current Space Engineering Program at Lassonde, CAS2E – Community Applied Sustainable Space Engineering,  (ASEE 2022); the educational tools developed when running the CAS2E pilot programs in summer of 2021 and 2022 (CEEA 2022); as well as what Learner Led Educational Design can look like (CEEA 2023).

Edmund Konroyd

Role: Graduate Student, Doctoral Level
Projects: Visualizing the Normate (VTN)

PhD Student in STS at York. Professional and educational background in architecture and building science. I have particular interest in the scientific/technological marginalization of people. The disability community is a particular area of focus and I take up how disability identities (social, medical, political, etc.) intersect with citizenship. More often than not, disability citizenship is only partial. More specifically I look through infrastructures of all types (parks, energy, or road networks, digital-virtual etc.) into how people associate, and how assemblages may deliberate. I also investigate the various systems and rules of access/provision, use, management, etc. as elements that can either support or correct such partiality for the disabled ‘other’. Another focus of my research is at the intersection of Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) science and technology. The built environment, its representation, and role as a point of engagement, form an important substrate where a lot of the associational, economic, and civic activity of citizenship, plays out.

Andrew McConnell

Role: Graduate Student, Doctoral Level

Andrew McConnell is currently pursing his PhD in Digital Media at the Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, examining how to engage Indigenous youth in a way that develops STEM knowledge based on Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies. He wants to ensure that Indigenous students see themselves and their culture reflected in STEM learning so they are well prepared and grounded for the study engineering and technology in post-secondary institutions.
Andrew is a member of Nipissing First Nation living in Toronto, and an accomplished educator with almost 20 years of experience teaching both technology and Indigenous education. He was the board lead for Indigenous education at the York Region District School Board for 5 years, and directly supported the work of the Indigenous Education team, liaising with Georgina Island First Nation, and the Anishinaabek Education System, and constantly advocating for the inclusion of Indigenous content across the board.
As the head of Technological Education at Thornlea Secondary school, Andrew co-founded the Academy of Creativity and Multimedia (ACAM) program, which connected art and technical learning in high school developing both technical knowledge and artistic thinking in students.
Andrew is an IBET Momentum Fellow.

Philip Michalowski

Role: Graduate Student, Masters Level

Philip is a recent B.A Digital Media graduate and MSc student at York University. He is always enthusiastic to help others and supports his local community. He strongly believes that creativity can bring people together and create positive changes not only in the world of science but also in everyday life. Philip is interested in web design and development, human-computer interaction, and IoT. He always aims to be innovative and bring a stronger message with each subsequent project. As a designer and creator, he finds satisfaction in bringing digital landscapes to life. His curiosity extends to exploring the leading digital news, from paying close attention to the dynamically changing web trends to searching through the immersive realm of 3D WebGL and the transformative potential of IoT. He aims to showcase common urban problems such as waste management or noise pollution as well as help break any difficulties to bring innovative technology closer to people who really need it.

Ellie Van Berkel

Role: Graduate Student, Doctoral Level
Projects: Accessibility in Educational Placement for Students with Disabilities (AcTinSite)

Ellie Van Berkel is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education and is working on a doctoral project that investigates the way in which children represent the meaning and use of Assistive Technologies.  She also works as a Graduate Research Assistant in the lab.

Undergraduate Members

Marvin Louie Faner

Role: Undergraduate Student

I’m an aspiring accountant and an immigrant from the Philippines with a heart full of dreams and a determination to create a lasting impact in the world of tax accounting and finance.

Richelle Grandison

Role: Undergraduate Student
Projects: Visualizing the Normate (VTN)

Rashiq Shahad

Role: Undergraduate Research Assistant
Projects: Lab Infrastructure Upgrade

Rashiq is a 4th year Mechanical Engineering student and undergrad RA with the PiET research group. His previous work term experiences with Toronto Hydro (Project Engineer), KPMG (Management Consultant) and Lassonde School of Engineering (NSERC USRA Researcher), sets him up for the role of Projects & Operations analyst for the lab. His objectives are to dissect current lab processes/operations, and execute on solutions for the betterment of the PiET lab (and greater GaMAY HUB).

Lab Alumni

The alumni section is in progress and is not yet complete. If you are an alumni and your entry is not listed here, please contact the lab director at

Alumni – Post Doctoral Fellows

Hilda Smith

Dr. Hilda Smith worked as a Post Doctoral Associate in the PiET lab, supporting the AcTinSite research project as a Knowledge Mobilization Specialist.  They completed their PhD in Critical Disability Studies. Prior to that, they worked as an RA on the BHER UX Research Project.

They now work as a Knowledge Broker and as a member of the Technical Committee for Plain Language at Accessible Standards Canada:

Alumni – Graduate Students

Sarah Akhavan

Sarah completed her MSc thesis in the lab:

Akhavan Kazemzadeh, S. (2022). The PISHI Concept: A Technique for Increasing Inclusion in the Design of Open-Source Assistive Technologies [Master of Science, York University].

Sarah is now a UX Researcher & Designer:

Melissa Banyard

Melissa Banyard completed her masters degree project in the lab and also worked as a RA on the BHER project.  She has a career in UX Design Research, see

Elias Bestard Lorigados

Elias completed his MSc Thesis in the PiET lab:

Bestard Lorigados, E. (2022). Fan-Fiction and AO3 Free-Form Tagging Practice: Innovating Open-Source Tools for Tag Network Visualization and Analysis [Master of Science, York University].

Foad Hamidi

Foad Hamidi has a PhD in Computer Science (2016) from York University, focusing on designing and evaluating digital living media systems for children that utilized dynamics of caring and responsibility. He is currently a Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), investigating how technological tools and processes can support inclusion, participation and empowerment for different populations, including people with disabilities and youth. Foad is also collaborating with Dr. Baljko on the FLiK (Fabrication Lab-in-a-Kit) project to develop DIY Assistive Technology for Children with Disabilities in Kenya.

Brandon M. Haworth

Brandon completed his MSc in Computer Science and Engineering under the joint supervision of Professors M. Baljko and P. Faloutsos. He is currently an faculty member at the University of Victoria and director of the Graphics, Artificial Intelligence, Design, and Games (GAIDG) Lab,

Fatima O. Hussain

Fatima completed a masters research project entitled “Indirect Text Entry Interfaces Based on Huffman Coding With Unequal Letter Costs”.

Michael Kaftarian

Michael completed a masters research project entitled “A review of the Uncanny Valley Hypothesis & An implementation of the artificial agent component of an interactive sculpture”.

Victoria McArthur

Vicky completed a masters thesis in Interdisciplinary studies entitled “Professional Second Lives: An Analysis of Appearance Codes, Ethnographies and Sociometrics of Virtual World Professionals”.  She now is a faculty member at Carleton University:

Merino Manuel Merino

Manual was a visiting student to the lab, visiting from the Universlty of Seville, Spain.  He worked on several projects, primarily focusing on the use of biosignals in wearable interactive systems.  He currently leads a research lab in the Department of Electronic Technology in the Universidad de Sevilla:

Amma Ofori

Amma Ofori holds a BEd in education and completed a masters thesis in Interdisciplinary studies at York University called “Choose Your Own Adventure? The Experiences of Occassional Teachers in the Reproduction or Transformation of Educational Systemts”.

Daniel Parreira

Daniel developed an wellness-based interactive system that combines VR, EEG, and machine learning for his MSc studies while a member of the lab and contributed in several other ways.  See:  He has a career as a senior software engineer:

Mana Poustizadeh

Mana completed a masters thesis project entitled “Design Justice Principles And Do-It-Yourself Assistive Technology: Case Study”, which investigated the “Makers Making Change” initiative. 

Poustizadeh, M. (2021). Design Justice Principles and Do-It-Yourself Assistive Technology: Case Study [Master of Science, York University].

Mana now works as an AI developer:

Corrie Schweertman

Corrie worked in the PiET lab, primarily engaged in community outreach and capacity building withing the AcTinSite project.  This work was done over the course of two practicum placements, which were part of her advanced training in the “Master of Leadership and Community Engagement” (MLCE) degree program, an innovative program offered by the Faculty of Education.

Ruth Tait

Ruth completed a masters thesis project “Examination Of The Transitioning Of The Book From Print To Digital: Inspiration, Possibilities & Application”

Andrew Kai Chung Tam

Andrew completed a masters research project entitled “Extraction and Analysis of Ethnographic Data from an Online Disability Community”, which was situated at the intersection of Human-Computer Interaction and Science and Technology Studies. Andrew now works as a Mathematics Teacher in Dubai in the UAE Elite Stream (enriched Math, Science, and English) program.

Rojin Majd Zarringhalam

Rojin is now a Machine Learning Engineer/Data Scientist:

Mehrnaz Zhian

Mehrnaz Zhian completed her MSc in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at York University under the supervision of Prof. Melanie Baljko. She worked on tracking visible features of speech for Computer-Based speech therapy for children with Apraxia of speech.

Mehrnaz is now a Professor at Seneca College:

Alumni – Undergraduate Students

Sara Attalla

Sara provided key hardware and software development contributions to the Open Source Assistive Technology project

Sara Azari

Sara Azari is a fourth year Computer Science student with a special interest in HCI and UX studies at York University. Sara also works as a Research Assistant on the ENAMEL (ENabling MEdia for braille Literacy) project at Dr. Baljko’s lab.

Dyllan Bertrand

Schweta Dixit

Shweta is a 4th year Space Engineering student at the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University and is currently working as a Research Assistant at Dr. Baljko’s lab. Specifically, Shweta is responsible for the Prototype development of Interactive tangible devices using open source 3D modelling software, OpenSCAD, for the Enabling Media for Literacy (ENAMEL) project, which aims to develop a Braille learning device to teach Braille to young children. Under this project, Shweta hopes to create a hardware model for the assistive technology that is robust and easy to use for young children.

Assaf Gadot

Thalia Godbout

Thalia provided UX Research/Design support to the ACTon and AcTinSite projects.

Sunjik Lee

Sunny (Sunjik) completed his BSc in Psychology at Queen’s University in 2015 and he is currently in his second year in BSc in Computer Science at York University. In addition, he is currently working as a Research Assistant on the ENAMEL (ENAbling MEdia for braille Literacy) project at Piet.

Sunny is interested in developing usable software that affects people’s lives for the better and hopes to enter into a career as a software developer to follow his passion!

Mengyuan (Joy) Li

Mengyuan completed her Bachelor of Management in Public Administration in China in 2015 and then undertook the Computer Science program York University. She worked as a Research Assistant on the AR Sandbox project at Dr. Baljko’s lab. Because of the interest in HCI, design and programming, Mengyuan hopes to enter into a career as a UX/software developer to make people’s lives better!

Alexander Moakler

Divine Omeire

Divine worked as an RA in the PiET lab during her time as a undergraduate student doing a Major/Minor in  Biomedical Science and Psychology.  She worked to support the AcTinSite project through developing plain-language summaries and supported the PiET lab communications.

Hyunju (Joo) Park

Joo worked in the PiET lab as a RA on the ACTon project, primarily engaged in UX Research/Design tasks to ensure that the interactive components of the Open Educational Resource (OER) met the requirements of the project.  During her time, she won an Undergraduate Student Research Award (USRA) and will continue her training in Dr. Shital Desai’s SaTs lab,

Runa Patel

Runa Patel is a third year psychology student from the faculty of health at the York University. In addition, Runa is interested in expanding her knowledge in developing and evaluating digital technologies, and in particular, rehabilitative technologies. Runa has been a member of a team working on the Enabling Media for Literacy” (ENAMEL) research project at Dr. Baljko’s laboratory. The main focus of her project is to encourage learning Braille among particularly children with visual disability by developing and evaluating low-cost digital technologies including 3D printing, Raspberry Pi, Arduino as well as open source software. Utilizing user-centered design approaches, she is leading the pilot testing of the project’s usability study and data collection. Through her work, Runa hopes to promote the importance of braille literacy in the community.

Ramona Sartipi

Zannie Victor-Ogbondah

BSc , Digital Media Zannie is a fourth-year Digital Media student at York University. Due to her interest in design and technology, she hopes to pursue a career path that incorporates both interests as well as working with new and emerging technology. She hopes to change how people interact with technology and create solutions through User Interface or Experience (UI/UX) design. She currently works as a Research Assistant on the AR Sandbox project in the lab. Asides from this, she volunteers as a NATS-Aid tutor at York University and she enjoys contributing to the various communities around her.

Austin Vuong

Austin Vuong completed the Honours Computer Science program at the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University. They have worked as a Research Assistant under the supervision of Dr. Melanie Baljko.