Six teams of Washington State University first-year success seminar students won prizes at the spring Adobe Creative Jam, the second such competition and collaboration between the university and tech giant Adobe.

The goal of the creative jam was to create mobiles apps to tackle topics ranging from unemployed worker’s resources to LGBTQ issues.

“We’re proud of how nearly 125 students total in the UNIV 104 course embraced unique challenges this semester, and of the final winning teams whose presentations were creative and caring,” said Cynthia Williams, program director.

The jam is the culmination of a 4-week project both within and beyond the UNIV 104 classroom, said Williams.   Students participating in the Adobe App project learn and demonstrate career-ready skills such as complex problem solving, project management, and team communication strategies. Students research topics, problems, and solutions and consider their audiences; develop storyboards ; and finally use Adobe XD software to create 10 or more screens to build out their solution. Adobe selects 10 final teams for the jam; the top six teams are chosen by a live online judging panel of industry and Adobe professionals and awarded gift cards.

“This semester, students had the added advantage of having online ‘office hours’ with an Adobe representative who could help guide their progress,” said Williams.

Doubling down on technology this semester

Also this semester, students had to ramp up their knowledge and use of technology, Williams said. Not only did they have to conceptualize solutions to problems and create apps using Adobe XD, but they also had to learn to use videoconferencing software to practice and deliver their three-minute mobile app solutions.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic struck mid-semester, all WSU classes moved to an online format. Just that quickly the option to present their apps to an audience in person—as a different cohort of teams did in fall—just evaporated,” Williams said. “But every team adjusted to the challenge and their final presentations went very well. They exhibited great resilience.”

Karen Weathermon, director of the WSU First-Year experience of which UNIV 104 is a part, noted that the theme for presentations—safe communities—was originally selected to align with topics taken from this year’s Common Reading book, “Refugee.”

In her online welcome to the jam, Weathermon said, “We had no idea last fall when we selected ‘safe communities’ that it would ultimately have such relevance to us all, given the international pandemic that began to impact us so directly in March. But that theme afforded students new opportunities to consider what elements constitute safe communities for ourselves and for others.”

Winning teams

For the problem-solving, app-building challenge this spring, presenters, instructors, and topics include:

First place team: Blazing Kittens, with students Michael Hask, Waddhanabot Yi, and Ethan Pace, working with instructor Modupe Akinnuoye on an app to provide resources to unemployed workers and disadvantaged people

Second place team: Three Musketeers, with students Robert Miller, Andy Resendiz, and Tariq AlShereiqi, working with instructor Samantha Solomon on an app to identify instances of domestic violence and provide resources for victims

Third place team: Healing Hands with students Ritik Agarwal, Harshilkumar Sojitra, and Emily Moran, working with instructor Emmanuel Jaiyeola on an app to create a daily log and other resources for pregnant women and new mothers

Fourth place team: Benny the Bulls with students Allison McIlroy, Jaida Miller, and Steven Battle, working with Solomon on an app to provide safety resources for travelers

Fifth place team: ChowTown with students Dylan LaMarca, Shiqin Jiang, and Thanaporn Maitham, working with Jaiyeola on an app to provide various resources for travelers

Sixth place team: New Generation (Homies) with students Jarely Martinez, Sree Komaravolu, and Yiming Liu, working with Williams on an app to raise LGBTQ awareness and provide a sense of community through shared stories

Partnering with the Creative Corridor and Adobe

Williams thanked her UNIV 104 instructors and the WSU Creative Corridor for making the UNIV 104 Adobe App Project a possibility for the students and contributing to their digital literacy. She also credits Adobe for its commitment to the university and its students; in addition to the jams, it was recently announced that students can download the Adobe Creative Cloud with its suite of software products at no cost.

“The in-curriculum digital literacy project that culminates with the Creative Jam is an opportunity we provide to enrich students’ learning, and it would not be possible without all of us working together as a team,” Williams said. “In many ways, we educators gain as much as the students through such a rich and growing collaboration.”

View the Jam online

Williams said that, thanks to Adobe, a recording of the students’ presentations is available to the public. The next jam is already being planned for fall.