BYU Marriott Students Win Big at AIS Competition

PROVO, Utah – Jun 24, 2020 – Though COVID-19 presented challenges for students competing in the annual Association for Information Systems (AIS) Student Chapter Leadership Conference this year—including not being able to compete in person—two teams of BYU Marriott information system (IS) students quickly, and successfully, adapted to this new and unexpected situation. At the national competition held 27 March, both teams placed second in the blockchain and software innovation categories respectively, with each team taking home a prize of $1,000.

The winning teams each consisted of four students. The blockchain team included IS management seniors: Ben Walbrecht from Safford, Virginia, and Caleb Olson from Sammamish, Washington. The software innovation team included two IS seniors: Victoria Black from Highland, Utah, and Seth Erickson from Wellsville, Utah. In addition, Spencer Jensen, a first-year MISM student from Spokane, Washington, and Joslyn Bunderson, a first-year MISM student from St. Louis, competed on both the blockchain and software innovation teams.

Students began preparing for the competition in mid-January. However, instead of presenting in front of a crowd in Illinois as originally planned, teams presented to a panel of judges during a Zoom video conference. “Adapting to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 situation and seeing success was rewarding,” says Jensen. “Working remotely was difficult, but we were able to alter our original plans and prepare for the competition.”

Teams competing in the blockchain category were tasked with helping Heifer International, a global nonprofit working to eradicate poverty and hunger. “Our group decided to write a web application for the products, allowing the company to more easily track where products were in the supply chain,” says Jensen. “We wanted the information to be easy to understand and accessible for our audience, which ranged from farmers to shippers and merchants.”

The software innovation team needed to create an IS-centered solution to support one of the seventeen United Nation’s sustainable development goals. With this prompt, the team designed an app called “Good Riding” that would award people points when they used public transportation. Once a certain number of points was reached, users could cash in their points to donate toward a charity of their choice. “Donating would incentivize people to ride public transportation and create a healthy community and a better world through their donations,” says Bunderson.

Prior to entering the competition, BYU Marriott IS students interested in participating in the AIS Student Competition were asked to take a survey as part of their applications. From those applications, BYU Marriott IS professors and team coaches Degan Kettles and Tom Meservy handpicked students for each team. “We chose specific students because we knew they would be great representatives of BYU Marriott,” says Kettles.

Once assigned to a team, students met weekly, brainstorming ideas and working on their presentations. “Our students are extraordinarily busy, and while students were preparing for the competition, they were also taking exams and working on other assignments and projects,” says Kettles. “Yet they were still enthusiastic and excited to participate in the competition. Being associated with students who put their time and energy into optional projects is rewarding.”

Though unforeseen challenges arose due to COVID-19, BYU Marriott’s IS students still enjoyed the process of preparing and competing in the AIS competition. “Participating in this competition was a great experience, and I loved working with such smart and capable team members,” says Jensen.

The software innovation team prepares for the competition. Photo courtesy of Joslyn Bunderson.
The software innovation team prepares for the competition. Photo courtesy of Joslyn Bunderson.

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert