Fried food fuels UAA first-place website win

Imagine having to go to gym class and run or play while wearing flip-flops, or someone else’s ratty old gym shoes that are two sizes too big and don’t have laces. Imagine your parents are too busy partying late into the night to notice or care, or that your parents do care, but are homeless and just can’t afford to buy you the right shoes.

Colleen Franks, owner of Aurora Kids gym, and Melanie Sutton, director of the Anchorage School District’s health and physical education department, saw too many kids who wanted to play but needed shoes, so they decided to help. They launched Kicks for Kids, a nonprofit aimed at getting gym shoes for kids who needed them. People and organizations responded. They donated shoes, lots of shoes. Colleen felt inundated.
“It literally blew up in my living room,” she joked.

A team of UAA Management Information Systems students helped Colleen by designing a website with an online inventory system that speeds up Kicks for Kids’ distribution of shoes, encourages participation, improves communication about the organization’s needs and achievements to the public and increases efficiency so Franks can accomplish her goal: growing the organization throughout Alaska.

UAA’s website design worked so well it won first place in the prestigious web project contest at last month’s Association of Information Technology Professionals’ National Collegiate Conference in Atlanta, where a total of 487 students from 57 colleges and universities participated.

There was no size limit on teams and some included as many as 18 students. UAA’s first-place web project team, however, included just three people: MIS students Kaden Galvez, Will Taff and Colleen Zink.

“While some universities send students by the busload, UAA sends one of the smallest groups to the competition, yet wins a disproportionate number of awards every year,” UAA’s Dr. Dennis Drinka, associate professor for Computer Information Systems, said.
UAA MIS students Brian Smith and David Herbert also won a first-place award, for database design, and earned an honorable mention in the systems analysis and design contest.

The AITP web project contest required work spanning two semesters or three quarters. It also required students to prepare a project charter, systems analysis study report and systems design models, as well as build and launch a website or web application for a nonprofit, prepare technical documents and a user’s manual and present their system to—and answer questions from— a panel of four judges.

Kicking off the Kicks project
Colleen Franks first connected with Kaden, Will and Colleen Zink in late September. The four of them sat down and talked about the nonprofit—how it works, tasks it performs and where Colleen wants to steer it.

“I was using a spiral notebook and I also had an Excel spreadsheet and email—that was the process at the time,” Colleen said. “In the last year I have been so incredibly grateful that this [website] was in the process because we couldn’t bring our heads up for air a lot of the time with the actual program itself. We couldn’t grow. We would be so stunted did we not have this program land in our lap right now.”

The UAA team wanted the site to be friendly and easy for Colleen, schoolteachers and staff, businesses and individual shoe donors to use. They wanted Colleen to be able to glance at a dashboard page and see whether donation bins need to be emptied, what varieties of shoes she has and doesn’t have in stock—that second—and where she needs to take shoes. They also wanted users to be able to use easy drop-down menus to request shoes, or let Colleen know a bin is full.

“It’s super information dense,” Will Taff said of the website’s administration dashboard. “She can just look at it once, it’s a quick hit and she knows exactly what’s going on within the organization immediately.”

Will said Colleen can produce reports on the fly from a data table that will also be useful for fulfilling shoe requests.

“Colleen’s moving out in the rest of the state, out into the Bush, right?” he said. “She could filter down just to a school in Nome, process all those requests, put them in a box, take them to PenAir or to these guys at [Northern Air Cargo] and ship them off to the Bush. As easy as that. It’s a really cool feature and I hope she likes it.” Will laughed. “Sure she does!”

To read more about Colleen, Kicks for Kids and UAA's Management Information Systems Students' recent AITP National Collegiate Conference, click here.

Written by Tracy Kalytiak, UAA Office of University Advancement