Tesseract Initiative's leaders bring perspective from several different disciplines as well as experience with community education endeavors. They exemplify the dynamism and wide-ranging know-how we weave into all of our programs.
Clayton Ou is a multidisciplinary designer, artist, and programmer from California's Silicon Valley. He holds a B.A. in Technocultural Studies from the University of California, Davis, an unconventional interdisciplinary major that allowed him to bring together his interests across digital media, engineering, and social sciences and explore their intersections. After graduating, he worked for a while on marketing, media, and UX design at a startup developing innovative voice-driven solutions for self-management of personal health conditions, helping the company to earn an honorable mention in a global hackathon. Afterwards, he decided to strike out on his own and founded Tesseract Initiative out of a series of workshops for high school students he had been running since college. At Tesseract, he now wears many hats - in addition to his role as a board member, his other responsibilities include running the organization's day-to-day operations, teaching most of its workshops during the winter and spring, managing its finances, designing its graphics, developing its website, and maintaining its technical infrastructure. In his spare time, Clayton enjoys cycling, playing video games, and trying out as many types of exotic cheese as he can find.
Clayton has been mentoring students since he was a student himself. As a participant on a FIRST® Robotics team in high school, he co-developed and taught workshops on CAD (computer-aided drafting) and 3D modeling & animation to his peers. After starting college, he began volunteering with a local STEM nonprofit to help organize workshops and robotics competitions for high schoolers - events that, combined, reached over 600 students per year - while also launching the workshop series that would eventually become Tesseract Initiative. Since then, alongside continuing to be active as an event designer and organizer, he has mentored high school students in media & business on five different FIRST Robotics teams across several years; interned in an elementary school classroom, assisting with math education; taught and worked on curriculum for robotics & programming at a leading summer camp; and, outside of working directly with students, developed & presented staff trainings for a local school district to support the launch of districtwide robotics programs. Clayton has been publicly recognized for his efforts with youth education, receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award from Western Region Robotics Forum at their CalGames high school robotics competition in 2016, as well as the Volunteer of the Year Award from FIRST Robotics at their Silicon Valley Regional competition in 2019.
Elisabeth Simonovich holds a degree in chemistry with a minor in math from Willamette University. As a high school student, she was part of FIRST® Robotics Competition Team 1868, the Space Cookies, an all-girls robotics team supported by the Girl Scouts & NASA and based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Elisabeth started out on the team as the director of outreach and rose to become the lead of the marketing and outreach team, helping with many other areas along the way. During her time on the team, she began running workshops on marketing and outreach. After completing high school, she relocated to Oregon for four years to attend college, while continuing to assist with workshops around the Bay Area by returning to California during summer breaks. After graduating, she moved back to the Bay Area, where she currently works as a lifeguard, and spends her spare time reading and cooking.
Nick Hammes is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he studied computer science, linguistics, and philosophy. While attending, he began getting involved with FIRST® Robotics as a volunteer and event organizer, continuing to do so after graduating and moving to California for work as well as taking on a volunteer role as a mentor for a local FIRST Robotics team, using his varied background to guide students in developing their marketing and technology skills. He now works at Google, and in his spare time volunteers at FIRST Robotics competition events around the world, inspiring students of all ages everywhere with his energy as an event MC, with a Volunteer of the Year award presented to him by FIRST Robotics at their Silicon Valley Regional competition in 2018 serving as a testament to his efforts.