Month: October 2019

Lab Specialists Get Students Excited About Tech at Innovation Expo

On Monday, October 21st, UConn held its annual Experience Innovation Expo in the Student Union Ballroom. There, OPIM Innovate Lab Specialists Eli Udler (English & CS ’20) and Vaughn Nangle (Physics ’20) introduced students to emerging technologies and agricultural solutions, such as virtual reality (VR) headsets and hydroponics. The VR headsets, especially, were a hit due to the photorealistic graphics of the Oculus Go. Students were immersed in titles such as Jurrasic World VRSE, where they could watch dinosaurs thrive in 3D.

Udler, a wearable technology expert, also networked with the Puppet Arts department during the Innovation Expo. Having experienced working on wearable technology projects before, he believes UConn Puppetry can benefit from technology integrations. This may vary from projects including the Mindwave, a device that can read brain patterns, to Adafruit sensors that can detect sound and movement. “I’m excited to help introduce Innovate to different UConn departments,” said Udler. “Working with puppets will be a fun challenge.”

Both lab specialists had a great time demoing the latest and greatest technologies to those curious enough to stop by. “It was cool to see people so interested in what we do,” Nangle said. “Now I just wonder what they’ll do with our resources.”

We thank everyone who visited our booth during the Experience Innovation Expo and to the Werth Institute for putting this event together!

Innovate Gets Exposure Through Research Connections Event

On Wednesday, October 16th, OPIM Innovate was invited to share its technologies at the annual Research Connections event. There, at Werth Tower, the initiative gained traction by making itself known to early-career undergraduates who had not yet been exposed to the lab. The purpose of Research Connections is to help UConn students find potential research opportunities and give exposure to projects that usually span across campus. “We thought it would be a great idea to showcase,” said Innovate Lab Manager Robert McClardy Jr. (CS ’20). “We want to help students explore their ideas and we have the resources to do it.”

During the Research Connections event, McClardy and other OPIM Innovate lab specialists networked with interested attendees. Many students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering stopped by the booth. The exchange proved to both parties how universal the initiative can be–everyone has the potential to innovate. “We connected with quite a few students and hopefully they’ll come check us out sometime,” said McClardy. These students interacted with the technology and end-products on display–namely virtual reality headsets, drones, and 3D prints. “To encourage brainstorming, we told them about some of the projects we’ve done in the past,” added the lab manager. “Everything starts with an idea.”

We thank everyone who stopped by our booth at the Research Connections event! For more information on OPIM Innovate, stop by our website!




Students Learn Agile Applications in Hanover Challenge Workshop

On Friday, October 18th, Hanover Insurance and OPIM Innovate co-sponsored a guest lecture on Agile Data Analytics. Run by alumni Matias Niño, an agility and project management professional from REI Systems, students were introduced to agile and its applications regarding software development.

As explained by Niño throughout the lecture, “Software was the first knowledge work that came about” and could not be sustained by previous project management methods. The waterfall model, for example, was too rigid to handle the rapid advancement of technology; projects often reached obsolescence before they were even completed, and only one end product could be produced to provide feedback. With agile, however, multiple work packages are completed in an iterative process responsive to change. This allows project teams to change their trajectory if the business or supporting systems call for it.

Other than the convenience of flexibility, Niño also praised agile’s ability to decentralize project processes. “When you put decision making as close to the work as possible, you get better results,” he said. To demonstrate this, he had the attending students participate in an activity. Inspired by the human knot icebreaker, students were asked to split into teams and tangle themselves together. The difference between this activity and the regular exercise, however, was the source of direction in the first round. During the first round, a “project manager” from each team gave orders; both were unsuccessful at untangling their teams before time was up. Yet, when the teams were left to their own devices, both completed their objective in seconds. “It was better to have people working from the inside,” said Rose Zimmerman (MIS ’20). “Since they were in it, they knew what was going on.”

Niño, being a Management Information Systems alum based out of Virginia, traveled back to Connecticut to volunteer his time and guest lecture. When asked why he pursued this opportunity, he stated the following: “I really did this because, thinking back to when I was here at UConn, the professionals that came back to give their guidance and share their experiences were really inspiring to me. They helped me with life-changing decisions. After I graduated, I wanted to do the same.”

We thank Matias Niño for guest-lecturing and everyone for attending the Agile Data Analytics workshop. 

Interested in attending one of our upcoming Hanover Challenge workshops? Here’s the schedule.




Hanover Analytics Challenge Workshop, Today! Agile Data Analytics

Attention, everyone! The Hanover Insurance Group, in collaboration with OPIM Innovate, will be sponsoring an alumni-run Agile Data Analytics workshop, today (October 18th).  Want to know how data analytics is affected by agile software development? If so, please join us for a comprehensive overview from 1-3PM in BUSN 127.

Note: this workshop is part of the Hanover Image Analytics Challenge and is meant to replace the Data Modeling workshop originally scheduled for October 3rd. Not part of the challenge? No worries!  All are welcome to attend. Stop by for a learning opportunity and feel free to network with our Management Information Systems alumni after the seminar!

MIS Case Competition Celebrates Another Successful Round

On Friday, October 4th, the Operations and Information Management department hosted its annual MIS Case Competition. Focused on exposing UConn students to real business problems, the competition asked participants to work together in order to create and defend potential solutions. This year, the case surrounded Connecticut Bank, a fictional financial institution attempting to enhance its security measures to further bypass the consequences of identity fraud. Biometric technology was the main focal point across teams–from fingerprint scanners on credit cards to voice authentication for mobile banking applications and call centers.

Throughout the day, each team expressed their business solutions to a panel of judges in the form of a 15-minute presentation. Each presentation was followed with 10 minutes of Q&A, where judges tested teams on their ability to think on their feet. “We asked [students] difficult questions, not because we wanted to give [them] a hard time, but so we could expose [them] to [an additional challenge],” said judge Craig Calvert. The best teams were those who evidently rehearsed their slides and supported each others’ answers when appropriate.

During the Awards Dinner, which followed the competition, students were thanked for their participation. While not all teams walked away with a cash prize (the top award being $500 per person), they each had the courage to tackle the challenge. All teams were given one week to research and design their slides on a topic that is still emerging and, to an extent, theoretical. They had to crunch numbers, scale technology, and generally think for both the bank and the consumer.

Not all winning teams were well acquainted with case competitions. In fact, the first-place team was composed of two first-time competitors: Julia Moody (MIS ’21) and Dean Perkins (Management ’20). Named The Buzzbees, both used their trust in each other and honest feedback to pave their way to victory. “I gained confidence as we went through the process of practicing,” said Julia. “I also learned that having team members with different perspectives can really make a difference in a project.” After Dean and Julia were awarded their first-place certificates, Dean had this to add regarding his experience: “I feel a little bit surprised, but I knew we put the effort in. Our greatest ally was planning and…practicing. We picked on each other and looked for areas of improvement. By the time we got to [the competition], we were relatively calm.” Dean and Julia had a third member of their team who had to drop out due to health reasons, further emphasizing the strength of proactive teamwork.

We would like to extend a warm thank you to those faculty members who volunteered their time to help make the MIS Case Competition a reality.

Interested in the MIS Case Competition? Stay tuned for the next round coming up in Fall 2020.


Student Spotlight: Joanne Cheong

Born and raised in Manhattan, NY, Joanne Cheong has always been a forward thinker with a passion for innovation. Throughout high school, she actively participated in various internship and volunteer opportunities that helped her shape her soft skills while experimenting with different career paths. As a current OPIM Innovate lab specialist, her tenacity works to the benefit of everyone, creating “tech kits,” or educational materials, to help others adopt valuable skill sets. Now, Joanne is looking to use her insight on emerging technologies to “drive business value by implementing efficient and cost-effective tooling.” 

In speaking with Joanne, she is clear and confident about her goals and interests, all while carrying herself in a self-assured and poised manner. She is a career-driven professional, yet carries a curiosity that often has her pursuing different hobbies. “Indulging my creative side is a personal passion of mine,” she says. She participates in blogging, bullet journaling, web development, and general content creation. Currently, she is creating a planner application to keep users on track. “I want to provide a convenient tool for those who struggle with time management. It can definitely be a challenge,” she explains. 

From food photography to data analytics, Joanne doesn’t stop at basic knowledge. She loves a challenge, even if it’s self-imposed. This is what led her to pursue Management Information Systems (MIS): “It’s an intersection between both worlds–technical and business–and there can be miscommunication if you don’t have a firm understanding of the two. That’s where we come in as MIS majors: we help bring those worlds together.”  

The MIS major, in many ways, has helped shape Joanne, solidifying her passions while helping her open doors. If it hasn’t been in the classroom, it’s been from working beside Jonathan Moore, MIS Program Director and Founder of OPIM Innovate. “Through every opportunity I pursued and every challenge I faced at Innovate, I further developed my skills. I bettered myself,” she says. Through these experiences, she’s become a better leader: “I consistently improve my functional knowledge. That way, I can help others.” 

Ryan O’Connor, an OPIM adjunct, has also inspired Joanne and her interests, especially in the realm of emerging technology. “His classes on the industrial internet of things and machine learning gave me a perspective on emerging technology I was never exposed to, before. He was also the first person that helped me analyze and apply these concepts in depth. This helped me with future projects,” she explains. Joanne applied internet of things and augmented reality concepts to her internship at Pfizer over the summer. 

In a few months, Joanne will be faced with the challenges of the professional world. In reminiscing about her academic career, she openly attributes a large portion of her growth to her exposure to the professional sphere as a student. “You have to supplement the theoretical concepts you learn in class with real-world experiences,” she says. “It’s a good way to propel yourself forward and prepare for professional challenges.” To that effect, she offers this advice to MIS majors: “Take OPIM special topics courses to explore your interests and participate in case challenges to improve your business acumen. Both will help you gain up-to-date knowledge on the tech industry and are fun ways to test the skills you already have.”

Interested in Analytics? Come to These Workshops!

Want to dive into the world of analytics and better your functional skill set? This semester, OPIM Innovate is hosting a data analytics workshop series. These workshops are associated with the Image Analytics Challenge for The Hanover Insurance Group. Students may attend a workshop, even if they are not participating in the challenge.

The following workshops will be held from 4-6 PM in BUSN 127:

  • Data Modeling – 10/10/19 (upcoming)
  • Predictive Analytics– 10/31/19
  • Data Visualization– 11/7/19
  • CBA of Data Models – 11/14/19

These workshops are designed to provide you with hands-on experience to learn about data analytics. Please share the word and encourage students who may be interested to attend the workshops. For more information visit the Innovate Workshops page.