Next Big Ideas shine at Capstone '10

A cursor that helps people with disabilities click where they want.

Retail business sales tools.

A way to fight invasive plant species with global information systems.

These three ideas not only reflect the diversity of projects presented at the iSchool Capstone event on June 3, they also won awards.

Every year, graduating students in the Bachelor of Science in Informatics and Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) programs present new applications of technology and innovative uses of information. This year's Capstone featured 70 projects, and five winners -- some teams, some individuals -- walked away with $250 apiece.

In recent years, awards have been given to projects judged to have the most commercial potential and for Audience Choice. This year's Capstone also included awards for potential social impact.

"It was difficult to judge because there were so many good projects," said Rick LeFaivre, a partner in OVP Venture Partners and director of new technology ventures at the UW Center for Commercialization, otherwise known as C4C. LeFaivre was one of four judges from industry and the venture capital world who selected two of the winners. Other judges on the C4C panel included Kurt Wedgewood, America's software executive for consumer products and retail at IBM; Drew Erickson, vice president of finance and operations for the Washington Technology Industry Association; and Rebecca Lovell, executive director of Northwest Entrepreneur Network.

Winners were:

Mike's Hard Lemonade: Retail Business Intelligence
Working with Mike's Hard Lemonade, Nick Malone and Hong Wei integrated sales, inventory and marketing data from key retail partners into Mike's cloud-based business intelligence and analytics engine. They produced a series of reports and tools for the company's decision makers.

Click-and-Cross: A Pointing Technique for Assisting People with Motor Impairments
Most computer users think nothing of clicking a mouse, but for many people with physical and motor impairments it can be difficult. Alex Jansen, who is finishing his Informatics degree and will enter the iSchool doctoral program, created software that broadens the clicking area, making selection easier and less physically taxing.

Those two projects won a C4C award, and Click-and-Cross also won a Social Impact award.

Another project that won a Social Impact award is:

MirrorBoard: Type with One Hand
For years, Peter Kamb thought about a one-hand system for typing, aware of complications that arise when a person either temporarily or permanently loses the ability to type with two hands. For his capstone project, Kamb created software that takes data from a mirror system to emulate the usual two-handed system. "Capstone gave me the opportunity to write the software and make it work," Kamb said.

One project won both a Social Impact award as well as Audience Choice:

Fighting Invasive Species with Information Technology
The Maui Invasive Species Committee had trouble managing large amounts of geographic, biological and effort data. Robert Bale, Erica Chao and Michael Visaya synchronized Access and global information system databases, thereby streamlining workflow, enabling data-driven decision-making and providing clearer indications of the committee's progress toward its goals.

The Audience Choice award for the Informatics program went to:

Social OneBusAway: Connecting Teens Using Social Technology and Public Transit
Chris Lam, Vanessa Ma, Tim Wibowo and Ken Wong created an extension of OneBusAway, itself invented by UW doctoral students Brian Ferris and Kari Watkins. OneBusAway is an online bus finder that indicates when a King County bus will arrive at a particular stop. The extension combines social media with trip planning to help teenagers connect and ride the bus.

Judges for the Social Impact Award were Karine Barzilai-Nahon, an associate professor in the iSchool who chaired the judging committee; Kathleen Woodward, director of the UW Simpson Center for the Humanities; Akhtar Badshah, senior director of Global Community Affairs at Microsoft; and Heather Thorne, director of ICT innovation, AppLab, Grameen Foundation.