The winning Accelerate team from the Master of Digital Media program.

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SFU students dominate at Vancouver User Experience Awards

December 04, 2018
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By Tessa Perkins Deneault

Simon Fraser University student teams shone at the Vancouver User Experience (UX) Awards on Nov. 29, 2018. Open to both professionals and students, the awards celebrate the best in innovative and impactful user-experience design for web and computer applications.

All three finalist teams in the UX by Students category were from SFU. The winning team, from SFU’s Master of Digital Media program (MDM), won with an augmented reality training application. And an undergraduate team from SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) took home the overall People’s Choice Award, beating student teams and professionals alike with an app for delivering location-specific information on postpartum depression.

This is the third year in a row that students in the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT) have won the student category. It is also the third consecutive year that a SIAT team has won the People’s Choice Award, competing against finalists in all categories.

The winning MDM team (Charity Principe, Rex Shi, Joseph Coombes, So Jeong Bae and Alyzah Kahariane) used the power of AR (augmented reality) to create an app that provides self-guided lessons for estimators. Using life-sized vehicle models in real space, estimators can practice their critical-thinking and decision-making skills. It is the first time MDM students have submitted a project to the UX competition.

Richard Smith, director of the Centre for Digital Media, describes the project as an exceptional piece of work.

“This team did what is most difficult in user experience design: creating an interface that disappears and just seems to be right, right from the beginning.”  

Over the past few years, SIAT has produced a steady stream of successful teams. The secret to the students’ success seems to be senior lecturer Russell Taylor, who has been a faculty member since 2002.

“SIAT is so far ahead of the curve,” explains professor Will Odom, “and the credit goes to Russell Taylor for his emphasis on teaching design thinking in the lower division and all SIAT courses.”

In each of the past two years, Taylor has mentored two of the three finalist teams in the student category, including the winning team. This year, he mentored finalists Emily Cheung, Carmen Li, Joyce Aquino and Rebecca Harrington as they designed an app to help Manulife customers manage and track their health insurance.

The People's Choice award winners l-r: Gabriel Yeung, Venus Lau, Aron Chen.

Odom mentored this year’s People’s Choice award-winning team of Gabriel Yeung, Venus Lau and Aron Chen on their Inclusive Postpartum Care project. It uses responsive mobile web searches to deliver credible postpartum depression information in an easy-to-digest format.

“The SIAT program is great at preparing UX students to be industry-ready,” says Yeung. “I think our presence at these awards reflects that we’re keeping up with this constantly evolving discipline of user experience design.”