MSIM students score a win in the Microsoft Imagine Cup

A team of four first-year Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) students notched a victory in the Microsoft Imagine Cup Competition to develop the best new software to address social issues.

In their first-ever design effort, Team Carroots won first place in the qualifying round of the World Citizenship category. A second iSchool MSIM team, 3CM, was awarded honorable mention in the Innovation category. Both teams will compete and hope to win in the semifinals.

Team Carroots, which included Julieta Sanchez, Tanu Khandelwal, Pamela Chakrabarty and Priya Sudendra, developed a prototype application that distills the immense amount of information available online to help people connect with educational and career opportunities that are right for them.

The idea came to Sanchez when she and fellow student Daniel Kapellmann attended a Graduate Opportunities & Minority Achievement Program (Go-Map) meeting. They heard how difficult it is to attract students from underrepresented communities to the University of Washington in spite of outreach efforts.

“We learned that people don’t always know what their academic options are, the access to information isn’t always clear, and people don’t know what they are looking for,” said Sanchez.

As part of the design process, the Carroots team considered that not all people might want to go back to college and that they can get educational opportunities from a variety of different sources, such as networking events, workshops or seminars. Additionally, the mobile application strives to connect the users with resources ranging from mentorships to financial aid information in order to motivate people who might not have the means or support to continue with their education.

Team 3CM, Danti Li, Qianying Miao, Jiang Qin and Daniel Kapellman, developed Home Abroad, an application targeting international family members of students studying in the U.S. It offers a simple way for parents to stay connected while allowing students to filter which information to share in different interactive formats.

A popular feature allows parents to send food to their children based on a wish list. This feature and others were identified by interviewing parents of fellow students in the MSIM program.

“The idea was to create something for international students living here to allow them to have more interaction with their families back home. It required different functionalities because most parents don’t know how to use various technologies,” said Kapellman.

Both teams were helped by iSchool Lecturer Mike Doane, who taught their Introduction to Information Architecture course.

“Mike was awesome! We took the IMT 535 class fall quarter and Mike was the instructor. He was very interested in taxonomy. This project involved a lot of what he was teaching us, so we asked him to meet with us and give feedback,” said Sanchez.

“It's always exciting to work with students on innovative ideas,” Doane said. “Both of these teams did an outstanding job of using what they learned in class and adding their own insights to produce winning proposals. Companies like Microsoft get to see our students in action through competitions like this, and the iSchool should be especially proud of these accomplishments.”

The learning, as well as the fun, came from the cross-team collaboration.

“It was really fun and it was helpful that what we were learning in all of our classes related directly to the project,” said Sudendra. “We could use all of what we were learning immediately and in a practical way instead of just learning it and doing a class project.”

“Both teams collaborated with each other,” confirmed Sanchez. “It was fun to see what they were doing and what tools they were using, and we could help each other that way, too. In the end, I feel that it was a really good experience for our cohort that were able to go through this together.”