Information Systems Student Teams Place in Top Three at National Competition
PROVO, Utah – Jun 21, 2021 – Amid the stress of studying for winter semester finals, four teams of BYU Marriott School of Business information systems (IS) students also prepared to compete in national competitions. The students’ hard work paid off—all four teams took home top-three finishes across two competitions at the annual Student Chapter Leadership Conference hosted by the Association for Information Systems (AIS). The final events for the competitions were held virtually 9–10 April 2021.
The AIS Conference is an annual, nationwide conference that features speakers from industry leaders, executives, and students. In addition, the conference hosts three competitions that allow students to apply their skills and knowledge. This year, the BYU Marriott student teams participated in two different competitions: the HP Design Thinking Competition and Social Innovation Challenge, with two teams entering each competition. The HP Design Thinking Competition asked student teams to create a solution for group collaboration that supported diversity and inclusion. The Social Innovation Challenge prompted teams to create information systems initiatives and innovations that aim to improve an issue in society.
When designing the applications that were eventually submitted to the competition, the students applied their knowledge and skills gained through the IS program. “The IS program has such talented students who are eager to show off their capabilities. The students represented BYU Marriott and the IS program extremely well,” says BYU Marriott IS professor Tom Meservy, who mentored the students for the competition. “Students from the IS program know how to work in a team, quickly analyze a problem, create a pragmatic solution, and present in a way that increases conviction in the proposed solution. These students had the initiative to take on a significant project during one of the busiest times of the semester and were incredibly teachable and open to feedback along the way.”
In addition to welcoming feedback, students prioritized collaboration in their teams, which allowed them to bounce ideas off of one another and create solutions. The team that received first place in the HP Design Thinking Competition—consisting of Jamie Cromar, a first-year MISM student from Orem; Jefferson Ostler, a second-year MISM student from Richland, Washington; Joslyn Orgill, a second-year MISM student from Chesterfield, Missouri; and Taylor Rees, a second-year MISM student from Las Vegas—stood out because the students set out to solve real problems that they experienced in virtual workplaces. The team’s web application, called Together, included all the functionalities of Zoom video conferencing software, Microsoft Teams, and Google Docs and focused on providing a customizable experience for all users.
The students began their brainstorming process by reflecting on both the challenges and strengths of a virtual workplace. “Our team set a goal to create a remote workspace that didn’t feel isolated,” says Rees. “We named our project Together because we wanted to help teams feel connected no matter their locations. Our feature that received the most positive feedback from the judges was a daily personal check-in, which encouraged open communication between coworkers—an aspect of remote work that we thought could be improved.”
Another BYU Marriott team, comprised of IS seniors Kennedy Daniel from Henderson, Nevada; Josh Perry from Castro Valley, California; Devyn Smith from Farmington, Utah; and Jacob Welling from Fruit Heights, Utah, took third place in the HP Design Thinking Competition for their project, Diversify3000. The students designed the project as an all-inclusive social hub, communication platform, and project management software.
The team prioritized diversity and inclusion, which helped its solutions stand out among competitors. “We addressed the diversity aspect of the prompt well by having diversity on our team. This diversity vastly improved our project by bringing to light issues that we hadn’t considered. We addressed those issues in our project,” says Perry.
In the Social Innovation Challenge, a team of BYU Marriott students took second place for its web application, Amity. The team included first-year MISM students Lilia Brown from Laketown, Utah; Caroline Crane from South Jordan, Utah; Cromar, Shannon Murray from Bountiful, Utah; and Thomas Fife, a Colorado Springs, Colorado native. The Amity app pairs middle and high school age students with an individual to support the student through their education. “As our group discussed important issues we could address for the competition, one of our team members, Thomas, brought up a recent BYU forum from Dambisa Moyo, who discussed the underinvestment in the education of Black and Latino students in the United States,” says Brown.
The students found building a solution for this social problem to be even more rewarding than past projects. “The most rewarding aspect of this challenge was actually making a product that could truly make a difference in the world,” says Fife. “Building sites for a company landing page or an e-commerce business is fun, but building a web application with a higher purpose like Amity didn’t feel like work. The challenge opened my eyes to the possibilities that technology provides for improving society.”
Another BYU Marriott team, consisting of students Katie Bankhead, a senior from Draper Utah; McKay Matheson, a senior from Cedar Hills, Utah; Orgill, and Rees, took third place in the Social Innovation Challenge. The team designed a web application to help women access birth control by using Google Maps to find birth-control offerings near them.
In addition to the student awards, Meservy also received the Faculty Advisor of the Year award.
The students’ hard work, effort, and overall performance in the competition left Meservy feeling excited and pleased for the students. “The AIS competition is the top competition for information systems students. To have all four of our teams attend the final rounds is fantastic, and the fact that all our teams placed in the top three is truly exceptional,” he says. “Our students once again represented the talent contained in the IS program and the incredible value of a BYU Marriott information systems education.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert