Computer Information Systems

CIS student team takes 2nd place in national competition

by Stephen Briggs

Members of JMU AIS Chapter celebrate their win at the 2021 conference

Members of JMU AIS Chapter celebrate their win at the 2021 conference; (above, L-R): Alonso Ralat, Evan Peek, Robbie Gomes, and Megan Nguyen

A team of JMU computer information systems majors recently took 2nd place in the HP Design Thinking Competition track at the Association for Information Systems (AIS) 2021 Student Chapter Leadership Conference Competitions.

Sophomores Alonso Ralat and Evan Peek joined juniors Robbie Gomes and Megan Nguyen to design a cloud-based, customizable virtual meeting platform targeted for educators within the K-12 and higher education space using AWS infrastructure. All student teams involved were tasked with designing an alternative to Zoom that would support a team working on a project where communication and document sharing are vital but also context-specific. The brief asked students to submit three items: wireframe mockups that show important aspects of their solution; a vision of the architecture of the design; and a perspective on how diversity and inclusion would be supported.

The JMU team began by doing research, sending out 50 surveys to students and full-time workers as well as interviewing four industry professionals to help generate ideas for a unique solution. They decided to name their product “Kaigi,” a Japanese word for meeting, assembly or convention. Megan Nguyen said their logo design “is inspired by wolves because they are animals known for their loyalty and teamwork, living in tough environments and are expert communicators.”

Armed with their research and concept, they quickly discovered the challenges they faced. “We had to be creative and show that we could indeed be better than Zoom and our competitors, and prove that to the judges,” Nguyen explained. “It was also difficult to come up with the technical infrastructure as we have limited knowledge about AWS and other concepts. We had to do additional research to make our solution plausible.”

Nguyen said the team was thrilled to advance following the initial round in the competition. “Our original goal was to make it past the first round. After accomplishing that goal, we were ecstatic and worked hard to make sure we also succeeded in the final round.”

The judges praised the team for delivering an impressive presentation, and had other feedback as well. “The judges asked us how we would compete with Zoom or the big vendors that already exist. They told us we focused on how we’re different from our competitors, but should also acknowledge what they’re good at and how we would perform just as well in our solution,” Nguyen said. “One judge commented that we are way ahead of where he was at our age.”

Overall, the competition was “a great experience,” according to Nguyen. “We also had immense support from our AIS Chapter advisors, professors Carey Cole and Shawn Lough, who gave us feedback throughout the process. We learned a lot from watching the other finalists’ video presentations and made great connections.”

AIS faculty advisor Shawn Lough and AIS faculty competition advisor Carey Cole were proud of the team’s accomplishment. “I was extremely impressed with this team,” said Cole. “They spent the time necessary to create excellent deliverables and meet the competition’s requirements. Their presentation skills were great as well and I am thrilled that their hard work paid off and they were able to represent the CIS major and the College of Business at JMU in such a positive way.”

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Published: Thursday, April 22, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 3, 2023

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