Students Research CAP Member Proposals

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One of the benefits that Corporate Affiliates Program (CAP) members enjoy in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) is their ability to partner with faculty and students on research projects. This Autumn, students in Professor Julie Kientz's User-Centered Design class (HCDE 518) were able to choose research topics that CAP members proposed. Both Microsoft and General UI had winning proposals that student teams selected.

MS student Nikki Lee discussed the project her team is working on, which CAP member General UI proposed. The team is developing an iPad magazine reader for Mamalode, a magazine aimed at mothers and one of General UI's clients. General UI had already developed a first version of the app, and the goal of the project is to conceptualize what version 2.0 would look like. She commented on the team's interactions with General UI, saying, "One of the great things that [General UI has] done is really emphasize that the project should be about our learning first, with the overall project goals second. They've also given us a lot of freedom to make meaningful design decisions.... They have done an excellent job scoping the project. It's a great 'level 2' project; what we're doing is neither critical to their success (level 1), nor is it trivial (level 3)."

Another class project was proposed by CAP member Microsoft, and involves Market Maven, a smart phone app, which helps connect buyers and sellers at farmers' markets. The goal of the project is to develop additional design ideas for how to meet the needs of target users. Group member and MS student Jamie Badilla described the project, "Microsoft's original project proposal... left room to incorporate ideas outside of a smart phone application. In turn, our group utilized survey results and semi-structured interviews to come up with a few tools apart from the phone application that could potentially better address the needs of our users.... Our research reflected the need to provide tools not only for our tech-savvy users, but also address the needs of non-technological users."

Some other class projects also involve other CAP member proposals. A second General UI proposal concerned work on an iPad reading app for children called Reading Buddy, and another Microsoft proposal explores Facebook privacy and how people choose to set privacy features within Facebook. Department chair Jan Spyridakis noted that CAP member involvement in the course had produced an exciting "synergy between industry and academia, giving students a chance to explore real-world design problems and develop solutions to those problems." Professor Julie Kientz also commented on CAP involvement in HCDE 518: "The CAP-sponsored projects are a great way to get students involved in a real world project under realistic time constraints. It's also great for the companies to get exposed to our students and learn from an outsider's perspective, which can lead to interesting design insights. We hope to continue this tradition in future HCDE 518 classes."

More information about HCDE's Corporate Affiliates Program is available on the CAP website.