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UT iSchool Spring Open House Showcases Student Talent

UT iSchool spring open house showcases student talent 

Graduate projects featured as part of the University of Texas School of Information’s spring open house May 8 ran the gamut of the more traditional public or school library setting to students not only testing but creating useful apps.

The open house offered the community a look at the cutting-edge work of graduate students, the ways they develop knowledge for the digital age, and how new information technologies impact the human endeavor.

Graduating master's students presented their capstone projects and discussed their research and future steps while current students presented information highlighting their application of information and technology at the event.

Matthew Cepeda – “Experience Gained! : A UT Videogame Archive Interactive Exhibit”

2015 iSchool graduate Matthew Cepeda’s capstone project added a fun, almost recreational aspect to the open house. By using a Raspberry Pi, a clear computer-like device that is the size of a smartphone, those attending had a variety of video games, such as Nintendo’s Mario Kart, available at their fingertips. The games loaded onto the Raspberry Pi showcased just some of the ones UT’s video game archive holds. The archive’s games range from all Atari games to various Nintendo and Super Nintendo choices. Researchers can request access to games and consoles even though the archive does not allow individuals to come to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History to play the games.

“First off we wanted to bring awareness to the video game archive on campus,” Cepeda said. “The archive tells a great story and either introduces people to games they have never heard of or reintroduces them to their favorites. I want to help people appreciate the history and storytelling element of video games.”

Cepeda’s ultimate career goal is to be a part of a user design experience team in the video gaming industry.

Susan Floyd – “Austin Music Documentation Initiative: Developing and Funding a Collection Aggregation Portal”

UT iSchool spring 2015 graduate Susan Floyd wanted to create a way to help people more easily find Austin music history facts and other items that might be hidden in various private and public collections. 

Her project, the Austin Music Documentation Initiative, intends to increase access and awareness of Austin’s music history by providing a portal through which organizations and individuals can contribute metadata and thumbnails of Austin music history related materials.

 “We created this project because we wanted to show the networks and relationships of music in Austin and how everyone worked to help make Austin the live music capital,” Floyd said. 

This project resulted in a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program grant application. UT Libraries has sponsored the grant while it is currently undergoing final budgetary revisions. The grant will be submitted to the NEH this summer for consideration in the 2016 funding cycle.

“The process of working on a grant is useful in itself and we went to the top with the National Endowment for Humanities,” Floyd said. 

She spent a large portion of her time reviewing how projects similar to the Austin Music Documentation Initiative were funded.

“This whole experience is a good example of the archival community working across repositories to get projects like this created that have a collaborative aspect,” she said.

Vivian Hu, Yanru Wang and Zhen Wang – Usability Study for Plot Guru

Three iSchool students, one UT graduate level business student and one communications school undergraduate student are working together to create a mobile app and to study the usability of it.

The Plot Guru app provides questions and trivia directly to your mobile device in-sync with television shows playing on Netflix or other video streaming services. The free app turns conversations about a show's plot and characters into an interactive game. Users can challenge their friends to a game of Plot Guru to see who can predict what’s going to happen next in their favorite shows while also receiving fun facts and trivia related to what they’re watching on the screen. 

Justin Key, a UT graduate business student, founded Plot Guru while UT communications student Ethan Dirks manages the design and content development for the product. UT School of Information student Vivian Hu manages product development and worked with Yanru Wang and Zhen Wang to complete testing and the usability study for the app. 

The iSchool team conducted three rounds of testing by gathering users together to watch a TV show while using a test version of the Plot Guru app. The users would watch the TV show while receiving questions and trivia through Plot Guru in sync with what was happening in the show. The students were then asked what they liked and disliked about the app and what features, if any, would they like to see added. After the iSchool students wrapped up the three rounds of testing, they made the decision to add several features, including an update to the user interface and a brief in-app video tutorial for Plot Guru users.

“Plot Guru really allows you to engage in the TV show you are watching,” Hu said. “After we conducted our testing, our confidence in the product really grew. It’s good to see the app brings great joy to people when they watch TV.”

Key said Plot Guru will be available for download in the Apple App Store in the next couple of months. 

“Vivian, Yanru and Zhen really helped improve Plot Guru through their studies and the UT iSchool testing project,” Key said. “This application originally grew out of a passion project, so this has been a tremendous learning experience for the whole team,” Key said.

Their team recently brought on eight copywriting interns from UT to assist with question and trivia content development over the summer. Plot Guru is also actively recruiting additional front and back-end developers to help get their product to market as fast as possible. For more information on career opportunities at Plot Guru, visit www.plotguru.com.

UT iSchool students presenting their capstone projects on May 8 graduated on May 23. For a full list of students and projects that were featured at the event, click here