Mobile Food App Wins Inaugural Colligan User Interface Design Challenge

Four student teams gave it their best shot, but in the end it was Team Tastebuds that came up with the winning concept at the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge, a competition to design a mobile interface. The team won $8,000 for their concept of a mobile foodie app. The final standings were as follows:

1st Place — Tastebuds, mobile food rating app, $8,000

2nd Place — Iris, medical communication system, $4,000

3rd Place — Emporyum, 3D printing/archiving app, $2,000

4th Place — T-Back, wearable back monitor, $1,000

Sponsored by the University of Oregon office for Research, Innovation and Graduate Education, the inaugural event was made possible through the generosity of UO alumnus Ed Colligan, former CEO of Palm Inc. The interdisciplinary program was open to all UO students regardless of their majors.

“Student creativity and innovation really won out tonight,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innovation and dean of the Graduate School. “This was a learning experiment that built on the University of Oregon’s strengths in product design, interdisciplinary research and other areas of expertise and brought real-world knowledge and experience to students from all disciplines.”

“We are extremely grateful to Ed Colligan, our expert coaches and advisors and our talented students for making the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge such a success for everyone involved.”

Dubbed the “Duck Tank,” Thursday’s grand finale event was a Shark Tank-style competition that challenged teams to deliver “elevator pitches” for their design concepts. They presented before a panel of judges that included Colligan and Espy, along with Paul Anthony, founder and CEO of Rumblefish; Isaac Babbs, software and entertainment media executive; and Rob Haitani, primary developer of the Palm/Handspring GUI.

Encouraged by a live audience, teams gave their pitches, answered questions from the judges and did their best to generate interest in products that didn’t yet exist. Concepts ranged from a back monitor that tells workers when they are improperly lifting to a 3D printing application for archiving and sharing sentimental objects to a medical communications system that helps bridge the language divide for first responders involved in disaster relief. Ultimately, the Tastebuds team won out with a presentation that emphasized the ease of use of their concept, a mobile app that helps users decide where to eat by crowdsourcing reliable restaurant reviews. Colligan praised group members for their ability to collaborate as a team.

"The Tastebuds team was truly a team in every sense of the word," Colligan said. "The passion for their product and the business opportunity showed brightly. The judges were impressed with their thoughtful and clean design, the unique social and crowd-sourced architecture of their app, and the outstanding positioning and presentation of their idea."

The team, whose members include Bobby Dodson, Chris Drachkovitch, Andrew Landau and Matthew Tolkin, plans to use the money to trademark its name and start developing and modeling its concept. Landau said the Colligan User Interface Design Challenge, a four-month program that took place outside of regular classes, taught the team how to make a simple idea into something more conceptual.

“We’re pretty excited,” said Landau, a junior advertising major. “We put a lot of hard work into this and it’s pretty nice that the work paid off.”

The theme of this year’s Colligan User Interface Design Challenge was “Making Mobile Meaningful.” It was 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 a total of 46 students on 16 teams representing 13 majors and all academic levels from across campus. It required students to combine skills in interaction design, computer science, psychology, marketing, and other areas of expertise.

The program kicked off in October 2013 with a series of preliminary idea sessions. Students then 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. In December, teams participated in the first round of the competition, presenting “elevator pitches” in support of their concepts. A panel of judges evaluated the proposals and selected four teams to advance to the final round of judging. Ken Kato, associate director of the UO InfoGraphics Lab, and Jason Germany, an assistant professor with the UO Product Design Program, developed the program and served as faculty coaches.