Alyssa Dugan & Family: Creating New Worlds and Advancing Education

Alyssa Dugan is an Indiana native that moved to the Myrtle Beach Area a few years after graduating college. She is highly involved with the local tech community, and with very good reason.  I recently got to ask her a few questions about her professional journey, and quickly learned that she has one of the most interesting stories I have ever heard!

Interview by Meagan Nowacoski

 

M: You own and operate a business called Honor Education.  Tell me about that.

A: We create educational software, applications, and video games. We actually started out teaching technology classes, and then evolved from there to the products that we are now developing.

M: What makes a project one that is explorable by Honor Education?

A: We like to play on the bridge between education and entertainment.  Everything we do has the elements of both.  Our company is very experimental with the balance of these two elements.

M: How big is the company and what is your role?

A: This company is entirely made up of my siblings.  

I have two brothers that are software engineers, and my younger brother and sister are both graphic artists. That is all of us in the company!  I am the software and game designer.  I basically decide what features we are going for and what the experience will be like for the player.  This includes 2D and 3D graphics and writing the narrative.

M: Wow. So this is a total family affair! How did that happen? 

A: Well we were all homeschooled, so at a young age we just started creating stuff together.

 As we got into our early teenage years we kind of each picked a focus that was complimentary to the rest of the family.  I was about 10 years old when we did our first website together.  Soon after we started making video games.  Ever since I can remember, we knew we wanted to work together forever.

M: Okay, I have to know about your parents. Who are these people that raised five siblings to have a company together?

A: My dad is an optometrist, programmer, and true intellectual. My mom is super creative and an entrepreneur. She started a school in Bangladesh about 15 years ago and still runs the charity.  She was also our homeschool teacher, so many of our early video games were projects for her organization.  One of them was similar to Oregon trail, but instead gave you a firsthand look at what life was like in Bangladesh.  Another video game was a simulation of running your own charity. Our other school projects included hydroponics and aquaponics, so you could say that our education was pretty untraditional.

M: So you and your siblings have always worked together on everything?

A: Yeah I am not really sure why, but we have always gotten along really well. I didn't know until later that this kind of sibling relationship wasn't the norm.

By the time we got close to college, we actually sat down and strategized who was going to go for what degree.  Regardless of age, we graduated within a year of each other. My younger brother actually started college the same time as me at 15 years old, and we finished our bachelor's degrees within 2 years after high school.  Depending on where you were in the birth order - you were either slowing down or speeding up your education so that we could progress together.

 
 

M: Last question- What are the most exciting things coming out of Honor Education in the near future.

A: Currently, we are developing an island survival game (codenamed Parang) with the focus on problem solving.

It's an open-world, 3D adventure game about fighting the elements, finding resources, building shelters, and exploring the world around you. The game is designed not only to entertain but also to inform on topics like history, engineering, geology, biology, and botany. (Think of it like a mix of The MythBusters and Lost.)

A: Mayan Math is another project in the works. (It's an major extension of our last product Mayan Multiplication.)

It's a collection of 8 math games to help students achieve mastery in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It includes detailed progress reports, teacher notes, student goals, daily challenges, rewards, and bonus levels. The Mayan Math update will be releasing very soon!

Alyssa Dugan is also a committee chair with the Grand Strand Technology Council's Tech After School Initiative, and an active committee member for Women in Technology.