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Student teams tackle timely topics with capstone projects

July 30, 2021

Nearly 650 students, faculty, partners and friends attended the University of Washington Information School’s annual Capstone gala event on May 27. For the second year in a row, the event was held virtually and participation was optional for student teams.

The event featured 90 projects from the iSchool’s Bachelor of Science in InformaticsMaster of Library and Information Science (MLIS) and Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) programs. Most projects were team-based with 2-4 students collaborating to solve a real-world information problem, but individual projects were also represented. Projects often tackled significant and timely issues, including aiding job seekers with disabilitieshelping libraries serve homeless populations, and improving COVID-19 screening for non-English speakers.

The evening was divided into three presentation sessions, each offering multiple concurrent breakout rooms featuring two or three project presentations. The format allowed attendees to mimic the experience of being in-person by navigating between breakout rooms according to their interests and availability.

Capstone is the culminating experience for many soon-to-be iSchool graduates. Students are asked to apply the skills and lessons from their coursework, often in partnership with a business, organization or government agency. Sarah Lee with the Washington Department of Commerce shared that the Capstone team she mentored, “… came up with a product that was way better than we could have imagined,” to help small businesses access funding opportunities.

This positive outcome isn’t one-sided. For many students, Capstone builds tangible skills and provides valuable experience that prepares them for the job market.

At the Capstone event, each participating team presented a five-minute video summarizing their project, followed by a live Q&A with the audience moderated by an iSchool faculty member. The evening culminated with all attendees coming together to celebrate this year’s award recipients.


Commercial Potential Award: Croftery: Online community marketplace for cottage food
Albert Huang, June Lee, Eugene Lim, Jerry Lin

Sponsor: Croftery

Team’s project description: In Washington state, there is a significant number of in-home cottage bakers who want to sell food to consumers, and a significant number of consumers who would like to buy those products. However, current solutions for connecting the two do not comply with state law and make it difficult for cottage bakers to scale. Croftery is a dedicated place for sellers and buyers to make legal transactions with guaranteed food safety and form a tight-knit community. Sellers will gain more customers and revenue, and lovers of good food have a place to visit when they want to have homemade goods.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award: Native Voices
Adylenne Ascencio, Rachel Kresl

Sponsor: UW Information School – Sandy Littletree

Team’s project description: Native Voices is a project that promotes land acknowledgment and celebrates Indigenous voices in the Pacific Northwest. Through extensive research, we identified and mapped 31 Native American authors across 26 tribal locations and developed a collection of 60 titles, making it easier to determine and access own-voice stories. In the future we intend to continue building this project with community effort, hoping to encompass literary and film work from tribes across the nation. We also look forward to sharing and using this resource in our careers as an accurate representation of mirrors and windows into Native American stories.

Innovation & Design: Verdancy
Ana De Las Alas, Jared Lai, Jessica Prasetyo, Anna Zhou

Team’s project description: Food production accounts for 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that growing your own vegetables at home significantly reduces your carbon footprint. Verdancy’s mission is to track the carbon emissions that users save from growing their own vegetables. Existing gardening apps on the market often focus on plant care without addressing sustainability factors. Verdancy seeks to explore this intersection and help users understand their environmental impact through tangible metrics. Home gardening can have big effects on climate change, and Verdancy is here to encourage users to incorporate more sustainable practices into their daily lives.

Research: Tracking Users Across Parler and Twitter
Stephen Prochaska

Sponsor: UW Center for an Informed Public – Jevin West

Student’s project description: The riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, exemplify in dramatic fashion the potential for problematic online narratives to have offline consequences. More work is needed to better understand the impacts of mis/disinformation and its role in such events. Using case studies of users across Parler and Twitter, I found that definitions of acceptable conservativism are becoming more narrowly defined and that there is increasing narrative-based collaboration between international conservative groups. These are important discoveries that will increase researchers’ understandings of mis/disinformation and help align solutions designed to mitigate these problems.

Service: Funding Finder: Connecting WA Small Businesses to Funding
Kelson Flint, Angel McCrary-Lupson, Lauren Ng, Abigail Quinsay

Sponsor: Washington State Department of Commerce

Team’s project description: Small businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19 and need support to stay in operation. Recognizing that not all communities have equal information access, Team kala worked with the Washington State Department of Commerce to create Funding Finder, a website that connects small businesses to funding opportunities, assistance organizations and resources. During development, kala prioritized the needs of tribal small businesses, a community whose needs are often unmet. Funding Finder was designed alongside community representatives and business owners to offer an easy-to-use platform listing financial support to keep these businesses afloat and address information access. Read more about this project.

Social Impact: Combating Misinformation through Facebook Messenger Chatbot (iSIFT)
Joseph Altamira, Jazmynn Combes-Troyer, Saasha Mor, Judith Wong

Sponsor: UW Center for an Informed Public

Team’s project description: Digital misinformation is a growing problem which threatens to undermine U.S. democracy. Working with the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public (CIP), this project applies the SIFT fact-checking strategy to a Facebook-based intervention to mitigate the spread of misinformation online. A Facebook Messenger chatbot prompts users to fact-check articles and provides an information extraction tool to expedite the fact-checking process. The project, iSIFT, reduces the amount of time needed to fact-check and trains users in information verification best practices to create a community of information skeptics and critical thinkers.


Informatics: Buddy: a gamified approach to habit building
Kayla Chea, Winnie Ma, David Mai, Ashni Shah

Team’s project description: Mental health problems are prevalent among college students and can have negative implications on productivity and social relationships. To address this, we sought to design a product that would help college students achieve a routine of healthier habits to improve their well-being. Habits influence health and quality of life, and gamification promotes motivation and engagement — combining the two, we built buddy. Our platform, buddy, lets users set personalized goals, practice self-reflection, and earn rewards as they track their progress over time. We hope buddy helps people develop better routines, and in turn, improve their overall well-being.

MLIS: Indigenous Representation in Subject Headings
Karli Cotton, Seth Kurke, Keiko Yamamoto

Sponsor: Mansfield Library at the University of Montana

Team’s project description: Internationally used systems such as LC Subject Headings, LC Classification, and Dewey Decimal Classification use misrepresentative or offensive language, marginalize Indigenous topics, and categorize them as things of the past. Through research, interviews and consultations, our project focused on developing alternative subject headings. The ultimate goal is to reflect the identity of Native students, faculty and staff at UM and increase their ability to access resources. The project team developed an annotated bibliography and provided the library with recommendations for immediate changes and strategies for continuing the project as part of the library’s commitment to an inclusive library experience.

MSIM: Tracking Online Disinformation on Social Media
Prathamesh Mahankal, Malvika Mohan, Subhiksha Mukuntharaj, Meghana Parab

Sponsor: Microsoft

Team’s project description: The advent of social media has led to users unable to distinguish between misleading and real information. To tackle this, we have developed an online disinformation mapping tool that extracts data from Twitter for any user-defined hashtag, classifies it as real or fake, and then visualizes the spread of misinformation for that topic. Our project is aimed to help journalists, political entities and responsible citizens by raising awareness and promoting informed decision-making.

The iSchool thanks all Capstone sponsors and iAffiliate partners; alumni, family and friends who attended the event in support of our students; the event planning and support team, and; this year’s panel of judges: Commercial Potential:

Bob Boiko, Teaching Professor; Ansel Santosa, Pioneer Square Labs; Bryan Yee, Director, Amgen; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Miranda Belarde-Lewis, Assistant Professor; Wanda Pratt, Acting Associate Dean for DEI; Jason Yip, Assistant Professor; Innovation & Design: Scott Barker, Associate Teaching Professor; Kris Bell, Principal Designer, Google; Andrew Reifers, Associate Teaching Professor; Research: Carole Palmer, Associate Dean for Research; Jaime Snyder, Assistant Professor; Joseph Tennis, Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs; Service: Joseph Janes, Associate Professor; Patti Killins, Director, Disney Enterprise Technology; Sandy Littletree, Assistant Teaching Professor; Social Impact: Laila Almounier, Senior Director, Expedia; Nick Sweers, Director, SalesForce; Nicholas Weber, Assistant Professor.