Meow Files: Cathy Laughlin, Lead Automation and Interactive Lighting Designer

Cathy Laughlin is Meow Wolf’s lead Automation & Interactive Lighting Developer. Her main work for HoER was designing and programming the Show Controller that runs the tech in the exhibit.

Cathy Laughlin is Meow Wolf’s lead Automation & Interactive Lighting Developer.

Her main work for HoER was designing and programming the Show Controller which is the control system that allows our employees to turn on and off all of the devices and power relays within the exhibit. It also allows our staff to monitor and troubleshoot all of the tech components in the space if they have malfunctioned or frozen. It’s one of the most important day to day pieces used — have you seen all the tech components we have in there?!

When she and I sit down to talk it is usually by a computer surrounded by wires and desks full of parts to projects currently in development. She is quiet, but sure of herself and so darn smart it’s mind-boggling. I ask her how she got involved with Meow Wolf and in such an important way.

“I've been hanging around [Meow Wolf] since the early days on the corner of 2nd Street and Cerrillos — then Hopewell. It took some years to get over my shyness and volunteer. I helped with the Due Return, helped de-install Glitteropolis in Las Cruces, and I did a bunch of work for Omega Mart.”

Cathy, after putting in such hard work on other Meow Wolf shows, was thrilled to hop on to the Tech Team for HoER doing something she is so passionate about.“I was stoked to get the chance to put my professional programming background to work. I've learned a ton of new things, and discovered a whole new world of physical computing and Arduino programming that I'd never really touched on before.”

Cathy Laughlin of Meow Wolf. Photographs and video by Kate Russell.

Of course, with a background in tech as impressive as hers I was interested to know when her interest in all things technology started.

“I was fascinated by computers and video games from a young age. I had an Atari 2600 game console as a small kid, and we had some Apple lle machines in elementary school (with "educational" games like Oregon Trail and Math Blaster on them). I loved them so much that my parents bought me a Commodore 64 to use at home, and I got into BASIC programming by typing in programs from magazines. I especially liked text adventure games (Zork, Planetfall, etc) and early RPGs like Final Fantasy VI.”

Although a huge part of Cathy’s life is technology and the amazing work she does creating, she also draws her inspiration from a lot of different music styles. Currently she runs a small metal record label called Promethean Burn, but she’s also an electronic musician who DJs as Commodore 256.

But wait, because unbelievably that’s not all!

“I've been studying Japanese for many years, too, and I have a JLPT level 2 certification. I also really enjoy cooking, and love hiking and camping with my dog Trixie. The northern NM area is packed with cool outdoor opportunities.”

I ask her about the future. I ask her where she sees her work heading in the next few years. She is interested in collecting more, and better data for our exhibitions in Las Vegas and Denver.

“I'd love to help us analyze [new data] to find patterns and interesting new ideas. I'm also hoping to make our future lighting installs more generative and reactive, so no two guests will ever experience them in quite the same way!”

Lastly, I wanted to know what Cathy’s favorite room in HoER was as she was such an integral part of its completion and conception, “Portals Bermuda!” she said, “I also have a soft spot for the Stalagmites in the caves, because it took us a lot of work to get them just right!”