UO student teams in final round of Colligan User Interface Design Challenge

EUGENE, Ore. — (Jan. 13, 2014) — Digital creativity will take center stage Thursday, Jan. 16, as four University of Oregon student teams square off in the final round of the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge. Dubbed the "Duck Tank," the Shark Tank-style event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 4 p.m. in the Ford Alumni Center, Giustina Ballroom, 1720 E. 13th Ave.

Sponsored by the UO office for Research, Innovation and Graduate Education the event is made possible through the generosity of UO alumnus Ed Colligan, former CEO of Palm Inc. It serves as the culmination of a three-month-long program that challenged student teams from a variety of disciplines to create a graphical user interface (GUI) — essentially the visual means of interacting with an iPhone, desktop computer or other electronic gadget. It required students to combine skills in interaction design, computer science, psychology, marketing and other areas of expertise.

"These kinds of interdisciplinary challenges don’t happen every day on campus," said Ken Kato, associate director of the UO InfoGraphics Lab. "Teams were a part of a truly unique learning experiment that brought together students and faculty from product design, advertising, computer science, geography and other disciplines. Students participated in a real world experience, with real cash on the line, that will prepare them well for the future."

This year’s competition, the inaugural year for the program, was focused on mobile design — a subject of particular interest to Colligan, a mobile-technology pioneer who helped create the forbearer of the iPhone and all future smartphones, the Handspring Treo. The program attracted 46 students representing 13 majors and all academic levels from across campus.

After a series of preliminary idea sessions beginning in October, students delved deeper into their concepts, learning about user interface design, wire framing, user testing, decision psychology, concept pitching and other subjects. Teams received coaching from UO faculty members, local private-sector entrepreneurs and world-renowned researchers. Kato and Jason Germany, an assistant professor with the UO Product Design Program, developed the program and served as faculty coaches.

Unique and creative interface design concepts were developed around a variety of industries, such as 3D scanning/printing, wearable technology, crowd-sourced/big data and medical/occupational health. In December, teams participated in the first round of the competition, presenting "elevator pitches" to support their concepts. A panel of judges evaluated the proposals and selected four teams to advance to the final round of judging.

Thursday's final competition will feature a similar judging panel that includes Colligan; Paul Anthony, founder and CEO of Rumblefish; Isaac Babbs, software and entertainment media executive; Rob Haitani, primary developer of the Palm/Handspring GUI; and Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school.

Along with presentations, the event includes a question-and-answer period and a reception for all the teams that will also serve as a celebration of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship at the UO. The event will conclude with the announcement of the winning teams and the division of a cash-prize purse totaling $15,000.

"We are extremely grateful to Ed Colligan, our expert coaches and advisors and our talented students for making the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge a reality," Espy said. "The competition builds on the University of Oregon's strengths in product design, interdisciplinary research and other areas of expertise and brings real-world knowledge and experience to students from all disciplines."

Media Contact: Lewis Taylor, associate director of PR and strategic communications, 541-346-2816, lewist@uoregon.edu

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