The 2021 Informatics Capstone Fair moved online this year.
The informatics capstone at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering is a showcase for students to demonstrate all the skills they’ve learned during their time in the classroom while also taking the final step in earning their undergraduate degree.
This year, students got the opportunity to expand their skillset even more.
Informatics seniors typically spend two semesters identifying and solving a specific problem they themselves face or find a broader solution to an issue involving the world at-large. Students then display their work during a Capstone Fair that is open to the public and allows them to explain their work to all who are interested.
Like everything else in the world, COVID-19 forced the students to adapt to a new reality. Instead of presenting posters and demonstrations, teams prepared online booths to show off their projects for the Informatics Capstone 2021 fair.
“I think that working in the virtual environment this year gave students a deeper understanding of their projects because they had to find means to report their progress and keep in-sync without meeting around a conference table,” said Logan Paul, a lecturer in the informatics department and one of the leads of the informatics capstone course. “Being online also mandated more formal accountability structures; while we established some of those structures, teams also came up with and established their own which helped keep them on-track throughout the year.”
Projects included a peer-to-peer lending application for Android devices; a platform that allows first-year students to make new friends in a COVID-friendly way; a website that allows IU students residing in campus dorms to connect; a scheduler to allow students involved in group projects to stay internally organized; a system to demystify accounting for small businesses, and much more. In all, 84 teams and 325 students presented projects.
“The capstone project has been a big part of my senior year and something that is constant chatter for informatics students throughout their time at Luddy,” said Jillian Pars, one of the team members of the Friends4Life project that helps connect people by listing their interests. “The one big thing that capstone has taught me is working with a team in everything we do for the course. In my career, I will always be working in a team which is why capstone was so helpful in that aspect.”
Another project, Arts@IU, provides a comprehensive, IU-exclusive environment for students to upload and view video content and showcase their artistic talent, allowing students to practice and share their abilities during the pandemic. It also will serve as a hub for artists to expand their audience in a simple, easy-to-use format.
“In any IT career, I expect that I will be challenged to constantly learn new technologies to solve problems,” said Kyle Combs, one of the Arts@IU team members. “Throughout the capstone project, I was presented with numerous challenges in the implementation of the team project and was able to use my critical thinking and problem-solving skills to figure out a solution. My capstone experience will be incredibly valuable as I leave IU and begin my career as an analyst with Deloitte Consulting. The Capstone project provided a comprehensive experience through the process of the ideation, design, and implementation of an information system that solved a real-world problem.”
Not all of the projects were campus-based. Cromosoma is a digital marketing company located in Mexico whose goal is to help small businesses migrate into the online space. Students helped design a system based on Cromosoma’s needs in a new collaboration between informatics capstone and the IU Mexico Gateway Office.
"The team has been awesome to work with, and applying our skills to a real company has been a dream,” said Austin Cornell, one of Cromosoma’s members along with Christy Carlson, Jacob Joseph, and Dennis Lin. “It's one thing to see your work manifest as a school project but another to see it actually impacting a company or group of people.”
The informatics capstone program is taught by three instructors, including Paul, Senior Lecturer Dan Richert—who completed his final semester working for the course—and Adjunct Professor Simon Lee. Teams competed for several awards, including Student’s Choice, Top Project, and the Teamwork Trophy.
“Our students are resilient,” Paul said. “We focused more heavily in the Fall semester on communication and project management, knowing it would be more important online, and teams took that and ran with it throughout the year. This was a key factor to the success teams had this year. We plan to continue some of the new things we started this past year due to being online, including the option to meet virtually with teams, which adds flexibility. We also will continue the heavier focus on collaboration, teamwork, and project management; we have seen this come through in the way in which teams have been working together during this year to complete their projects.”