Intense day of design

Design Challenge 2016 @uwcartlab

This is the second Design Challenge hosted in the Cart Lab. I'm a big believer in creating intense experiences to inspire design and connection between people. The first event that I hosted like this was the mapgiving kickoff in Missoula, MT, in 2008 (please be forgiving we were still getting the hang of social media!). Continue reading to see how we pull the event together, and fund it.

2016 Cart Lab Design Challenge:
The Jack Williams Lab has opened a complex paleoecological set of data of fossil species distribution through time. Students—both undergraduates and graduates—will work all day to find creative solutions to visualizing species distributions for multiple taxa in space and time. 

Goals of the Challenge:

  • Connect students across Geography in interdisciplinary teams
  • Create visualizations that will help advance the work of a particular project, and open opportunities for academic research in cartography and visualization 
  • Challenge students with complicated and messy datasets, for which there is no easy solution
  • A portfolio-worthy piece for each participant
  • A memorable experience for all involved
  • Opportunities for students to gain confidence and awareness of their abilities, and present their results in a public forum

How does the Challenge work?:

  • A small team of experts (including faculty, experts, students, and Cartography Lab staff) invest a couple of months preparing for the event, including data preparation, advertising, recruiting participants, and educating participants about the event and process. First year, masters student, Scott Farley, has prepared the complex sets of data into something that students who are not content experts can use.
  • Participants (undergraduates, certificate, and graduate students) gather on a Saturday to work together with the data to discover interesting patterns in the data, which we hope to be able to build stories around — they are encouraged to examine the data on small and large scales
  • Participants explore new ways to represent data
  • The faculty member obtains funding to cover all expenses associated with the Challenge
  • Any graphics that result from the Challenge are available to the faculty member, and the students who created them
  • Experts in cartography, GIS, or the content area are invited to help guide the students throughout the day. This translates to students working at a 4:1 ratio of students to faculty/expert.

Past success of the Challenge:

  • The first Design Challenge played a role in the successful NSF funding of transboundary hazardous waste trade.
  • Three students who participated in the 2015 Challenge are now funded on the grant as Project Assistants, and reside in the Cartography Lab.
  • Overwhelmingly, students who participated last year, when asked, “What did you learn?” responded proudly, and with some surprise, as they nodded toward their visualization, “That I have the skills to make something like this!!” 
  • Most students that participated last year, and are still in the department, are returning this year.

Schedule, Feb 20 Design Challenge:

9:30 Introductions (Cart Lab)
Rob Roth, Jack Williams, Tanya Buckingham

9:30 Data Exploration and Sketching (Cart Lab and Teaching Computer Lab) 
Students begin working with data, asking questions, sketching ideas

11:30 Creative Break (Classroom 3rd floor)
Activity to get people out of the lab and think about something else, a chance to ask questions, and share ideas across groups

12 Lunch (Cart Lab)

12:30 Working portion of lunch (Cart Lab)
Share ideas, each group shares a bit about the approach they plan to take

1-5 Full Production (Cart Lab and Computer Lab)

6 Presentations & Dinner for participants (Map Library) OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
Each team will present for 5-10 minutes: focus of their work, and the results