FL B25a
+1 (508) 8316986
PhD Computer Science University of California at Santa Cruz 2012
MS Computer Science University of California at Santa Cruz 2009
BS Computer Science University of Virginia 2006

Gillian Smith, an award-winning game designer, joined WPI in 2017. Her interdisciplinary work merges technical research in AI and HCI with creative practice in textiles and games, with a view towards addressing social issues and broadening participation and perspectives on computing. Their research interests are in computational creativity, game design, computer science education, and the intersection of traditional crafts and computation.

In 2021 Professor Smith was appointed director of WPI’s Interactive Media and Games Development program – one of the earliest gaming programs in the nation, and a program where, in her words, many different fields collide in one place, including tech, art, design, social justice, writing, audio, and user experience design.

Their current research focuses on applications of generative design in crafts and games, and she is co-PI on the NSF-funded Code Crafters project that aims to teach computational thinking to adults via quilt design. She is an award-winning game designer as co-creator of Threadsteading (in collaboration with Disney Research Pittsburgh), a game played on a consumer embroidery machine, as well as co-creator of eBee, a quilt-based board game that teaches basic principles of electricity. They also advise research in integrating procedural generation techniques into games and design tools, and using game AI techniques to gain insight into player strategies and learning.

At WPI Professor Smith has been developing and assessing ungrading practices – teaching practices that shift the focus of students and teachers away from grade-based assessment to encourage greater focus on learning. As part of this work they have been active in several Morgan Center-supported learning communities that bring WPI faculty together to explore ungrading practices.

Visit Digital WPI to view student projects and research advised by Professor Smith

Visit Professor Smith’s personal web site for more information about courses taught

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 4: Quality Education

SDG 4: Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

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SDG 5: Gender Equality

SDG 5: Gender Equality - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

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SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

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SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities - Reduce inequality within and among countries

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SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

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Scholarly Work

Professor Smith’s research focuses on generative design for games and crafts, computational creativity, and issues surrounding feminism and social justice especially as they intersect with computer science education and game design.

Featured works:

Mirecki, V., Spitaels, J., Royer, K., Graves, J., Sullivan, A., & Smith, G. (2022, June). “My Brain Does Not Function That Way”: Comparing Quilters’ Perceptions and Motivations Towards Computing and Quilting. In Designing Interactive Systems Conference (pp. 1035-1043).

Albaugh, L., Grow, A., Liu, C., McCann, J., Smith, G., & Mankoff, J. (2016, May). Threadsteading: Playful interaction for textile fabrication devices. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 285-288). Winner of 2016 Indiecade award.

Phillips, A., Smith, G., Cook, M., & Short, T. (2016). Feminism and procedural content generation: toward a collaborative politics of computational creativity. Digital Creativity, 27(1), 82-97.

Professional Highlights & Honors
Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) participant, 2021,

WPI Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Academic Advising, 2020,

Co-PI, Increasing Massachusetts Partnerships for Advancing Computational Thinking in Pre-K-5 Classrooms, $300K NSF Grant, 2020,


Retro video games are making a comeback in Massachusetts

WCVB-TV 5's "Chronicle" program featured an exhibit from Archives & Special Collections titled "Video Game Console Wars 1976-2001 featuring WPI’s Interactive Media Archive & Interactive Media & Game Development Department.” The show about all things 'fun and games' showcased the exhibit's collection of retro video game consoles, the history of console development, and how Interactive Media & Game Development students are learning to push the industry forward with understanding of the field's foundation.