By Ghada Baz and Jennifer Morin
Engagement in student organizations is a great way to network and gain experience while in college. One UCF student organization went a step further by giving their members an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the UCF community. In Fall 2019, the Knights Association of Project Management (KAPM) recognized that much of the support available to UCF students through Wellness and Health Promotion Services
was unknown to the students. KAPM quickly rose to the challenge and worked with several stakeholders within and outside of the UCF campus to address this need. The solution came in the form of a mobile app!
The project was a part of KAPM’s mission to educate students about the profession of project management and provide unique opportunities to gain experience on campus and around the community. The goal was to develop an app with a variety of features that showcase UCF’s FreshU program, which offers students access to resources such as free and fresh produce on campus. Since the FreshU program’s primary customers are students and others in the UCF community, such as faculty and staff, this provided KAPM students the unique perspective of crafting a vision for the app while focusing on a user-centered design that prioritizes the features that they, themselves, would want to have access to in the app.
After receiving the go-ahead from Stephanie Spies, Assistant Director at UCF’s Wellness and Health Promotion Services, the project kicked off when Jonathan Carr, Food Security Coordinator, met with students to share the program’s mission, goals, and offerings. Jonathan was KAPM’s main contact point on the client side. He continued to share his knowledge throughout the project and led several tours to show the students the locations on campus where a great portion of the food provided by the FreshU program is grown.
Ryan Seilhamer, Assistant Director of Mobile Strategy and Innovation at UCF Division of Digital Learning, was instrumental to the success of this project. He connected KAPM with the User Engagement Strategy team at Modo Labs Inc. who are the creators of the mobile app platform used by UCF. Ryan’s involvement continued throughout the project as he trained and supported the students.
Ana Sanchez, Senior Manager, User Engagement Strategy, Modo Labs Inc., worked closely with KAPM to give the students access to the Modo Labs app development platform. Not only did Modo Labs provide access to the platform at no cost, but they also shared proprietary online training material with the students.
In addition, the students received training on Scrum, an agile project management technique, from UCF Integrated Business alum James Gaiser who is an experienced game and app developer and project manager. The KAPM faculty advisers also provided project management training and general support.
Working in self-organized teams, KAPM members collected requirements, brainstormed key features, and developed user stories to guide their work. In Spring 2020, the teams had to adapt to the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the shift from face-to-face meetings to a virtual work environment, demonstrating a great deal of resilience and professionalism.
KAPM members’ efforts culminated in the development of three prototypes which were presented to stakeholders from UCF Mobile, UCF Wellness and Health Promotion Services, and Modo Labs. Some of the most notable features the teams built included maps that highlight the location of health and wellness resources as well as the integration with existing resources
such as event updates, recipes, and plant education. The teams received excellent feedback and reflected on the project management lessons they learned throughout this experience.
In Spring 2021, the first of the features proposed by KAPM members was integrated into the UCF Mobile App under “Maps,” “Well-being.” The UCF community can now see the exact location of the different fruit trees and vegetable tower gardens that play an important role in the UCF’s focus on the nutrition and health of its students. More features are planned to be added in the future. With this project, KAPM members gained project management experience in a new and innovative way. They collaborated with stakeholders both internal and external to UCF in a unique opportunity to apply agile project management practices while learning the highly desirable technical skill of app development.
KAPM members’ effort was recognized by all stakeholders. Jonathan Carr, Food Security Coordinator, UCF Wellness and Health Promotion Services, was excited about the students’ creativity and quality work. He stated “I was completely blown away by the mobile apps that were developed for this initiative. The KAPM teams exhibited a high level of professionalism, innovation, and creativity within all aspects of this project. They successfully created a functional app that encompassed the primary goals and objectives of our FreshU program. The quality of work that was produced by the KAPM teams has absolutely exceeded my wildest expectations from an undergraduate student project.”
Assistant Director of Mobile Strategy and Innovation Ryan Seilhamer shared with us that he was impressed with the innovative ideas and determination of the students. “From my first interaction with the group, it was apparent that the students were looking to create something not just for the project stakeholders, but for their fellow Knights and the UCF community.” He added, “it’s rewarding to see the three groups produce a unique experience that tells a story and informs the user of important resources at UCF.”
On his experience with KAPM members’ use of the app development platform, Ryan commented that “Modo Labs is a robust platform that offers lots of flexibility, which can support quickly building a unique mobile experience. The students embraced this flexibility to develop a scalable plan that takes advantage of the platform’s tools to offer an individual mobile app that was easy to navigate, informative, and engaging.”
Ana Sanchez, Senior Manager, User Engagement Strategy, Modo Labs Inc., reiterated the students’ work and cultivation of a valuable skill set. She added “it was very inspiring to witness the collaboration and the apps students were able to create with Modo’s app building platform. They created insightful and creative mobile apps while fostering a valuable skill set that they can talk about to potential employers. Technology and collaboration can be very powerful!”
The KAPM student members who participated in this project are (in alphabetical order) Gregory Balmer, Hayley Carroll, Marissa Corn, Mara Green, Samuel Keiley, Krzysztof Kowalczyk, Haley Lackey, Maria Morales, Elizabeth Moreno, Taylor Nielson, Dechla Raphael, Samuel Rahman, Christopher Sarmiento, Julianna Stofflet, Alisha Taylor, and Bivil Thomas
Some of the participants shared their thoughts with us. Mara Green, KAPM President 19-20 and graduate of Spring 2020 stated “It was such an exciting opportunity to be able to learn how to use an app development software and watch your creative thoughts and ideas come to life. My team and I utilized agile project management for the duration of our development as none of us have ever done a project quite like it. It was also wonderful getting to work and meet with our client for the project, The Wellness and Health Promotion Services at UCF. This department
does so many cool things around UCF that not many students know about. We got to tour all the different locations where WHPS and their volunteers grew many species of trees and plants and even eat some right off the trees! The main goal of this project was to develop an app that would help increase relevance for WHPS and make it known to students all the cool things they do and make available to students.”
Maria Morales, KAPM President 20-21, Member 19-20, and anticipating graduation Spring 2021 emphasized that she enjoyed the challenge. “It was an amazing experience to walk into a project I wasn’t sure what it was going to look like, and then see it evolve into an end-result. It is just absolutely satisfying! I learned a lot from every step of the process, but most importantly it was all about teamwork.”
Taylor Nielson, KAPM Director of Marketing 20-21, Member 19-20, and graduate of Fall 2020 described her participation in this project as “an amazing learning experience.” She added “whether it was the skills I obtained from developing the app through scrum processes or the knowledge I gained from my peers, it is an experience I will never discount. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to work alongside some of the most impressive students and faculty members in KAPM.”
The Knights Association of Project Management (KAPM) welcomes UCF undergraduate and graduate students from all majors. KAPM is advised by three College of Business faculty members from the Integrated Business department: Dr. Sara Willox, Jennifer Morin, and Ghada Baz.