We had our first graduate student poster session last night with about 25-30 poster presenters participating from both School departments (Computer Science and Informatics) and the full range of levels in the degree programs represented. Marcio, Kristin and Breanne earned three of the five awards given (all five got 2GB thumb drives, and the top winner also got a laser pointer gadget).
The real motivation wasn’t the lure of reward but to advance the idea that CS and Info students can communicate with each other. This is the second year of the merger, with CS joining Informatics under the School of Informatics umbrella. In addition to the physical constraints—Informatics students are already split between several buildings, while CS has their own building on the other side of campus—there are cultural and philosophical differences that the current students inherited. When I got together with a few CS students last fall to talk about this, we concluded that change was going to have to come from the student end.
To that end, the poster session was an unqualified success. People mingled. Some faculty came, not just the official judges but some passers by who wanted to see what projects are going on around them. Students with posters probably outnumbered those without, but not by much. There were a few CS projects that would make wonderful HCI projects, to the point where I’m going to push for some CS presentations to first-year students who are about to start thinking about their capstones. Perhaps most importantly, none of the organizers were discouraged from doing this kind of thing again.
That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of room to improve. We thought finding a suitably-sized room with a couple months advance notice wasn’t crazy, so beggars can’t be choosers. The split rooms and lack of usable milling space proved a problem, forcing one too-short session of posters to be yanked to make room for the next batch. There wasn’t enough time for all judges to see all posters, so they had to break up into smaller groups and compare notes later. We could also probably use some activity—or snacks—to help kill the time and keep people around while the judges confer. We saw only one CHI-bound team, not a good sign considering their posters are due in a couple weeks and standing up and talking about their project is what will get them into the next round of the design competition. Not all students and faculty showed up, so there’s room for improvement there. And there was still evidence of Informatics students mingling with other Informatics students, and vice versa with the CS. That is going to be an ongoing hurdle until we have more of these kinds of events … and more well-designed courses that allow the programs to mix.
Thanks to all of the students who presented or attended to show support. To the faculty, too. We’ll definitely do this again next year, but we’re also going to pursue an internal conference for the fall.