Students Jag Challenge themselves by bringing innovation to IUPUI


Jag Challenge is a First-Year Experience program that allows freshmen the opportunity to define a problem and propose a solution around a particular problem space. This year’s problem spaces included finding the solution to reinventing the online learning culture, strengthening IUPUI's relationship with Indianapolis, creating a safer space at IUPUI, and developing a more welcoming space at IUPUI. 

This year, all First-Year Experience faculty had the opportunity to have their class participate in Jag Challenge, and 19 First-Year Experience sections ended up participating. Students in those courses were split up into teams and developed their solution to a problem over 10-week time span. Chris Rogers, an associate professor in computer graphics technology and faculty fellow in the Institute for Engaged Learning, helped develop Jag Challenge alongside Heather Bowman, director of first-year programs, over the last two years. 

“They [the students] conduct interviews outside of their groups to learn about the problem space and find possible problems or pain points,” Rogers said. “They then developed empathy maps to put themselves in the shoes of other people, go through a process of ideation and brainstorming, conducted secondary interviews, and then proposed their solutions.” 

At the end of Jag Challenge, the best projects from each section were given the opportunity to participate in a Jag Challenge Showcase online, where two groups were crowned the winners, the Downtown Dash group and the Jag App group. 

Burbrink said her group decided to focus on finding the solution to reinventing the online learning culture after they found that many students on campus felt very uncomfortable being in the same vicinity as other students due to COVID-19. 

“When students were given the option of coming into class and doing it online through Zoom, they were choosing Zoom because they just did not want to be in the same room as so many other people whom they do not know,” Burbrink said. 

Her group found that their app was the solution to students’ concerns. Outside of COVID-19, Burbrink said that their app could also be helpful for commuter students, so they can check the availability of rooms before making a drive down to campus.  

Burbrink found that participating in Jag Challenge allowed her to realize that students around campus are dealing with different issues revolving around COVID-19 and gave her perspective on how other students are handling their emotions towards the restrictions. 

In the end, Burbrink found that Jag Challenge was extremely helpful to her and made her think about if she has a future in innovation and invention. She also thinks it could be helpful for students to figure out what they do and do not like about certain aspects of going to college courses. Although she isn’t the biggest fan of group projects, she found that she enjoyed participating in Jag Challenge.

“I feel like it was just a breath of fresh air, it was so different, it was so easy to get into it,” Burbrink said. I feel like all students should be given the opportunity to participate in the Jag Challenge, and it should be up to them whether or not they want to do it.” 

Burbrink said that her favorite part of Jag Challenge was creating the app to be what it was and figuring out what the app could do for others. During this time, Burbrink found that the instructors were helpful during these times. 

“They let us bounce ideas off of them, they told us to go out and find more research if we didn't have enough to support it, and they made it easy to go out and find other students who would be willing to actively participate in the research part,” Burbrink said. 

Their problem was finding the solution to strengthening IUPUI's relationship with Indianapolis, and their solution was Downtown Dash. Downtown Dash would be a program for students to visit different fun or educational spots throughout Indianapolis, like a scavenger hunt, Gregg saidHer group found that their locations were places they thought would have been important to visit at the beginning of their time at IUPUI. 

Gregg said her group decided to focus on finding the solution to strengthening IUPUI’s relationship with Indianapolis because as sports management majors they found that the connection needed to be strengthened 

Although Jag Challenge was a part of her first-year seminar, Gregg found that she had fun along the way, enjoyed coming up with their own thoughts and ideas for the problem, and enjoyed the personal aspect of the solution. She recommends that students participate in Jag Challenge because it makes everybody feel like their ideas matter. 

Gregg felt that her experience with Jag Challenge would help her throughout her education and career since it taught her about teamwork.   

“It showed me that you still can work as a team, even if it is virtual, even if you can't ever meet in person, you all just have to be willing to put in the same amount of work, spend time outside of class, and be comfortable over Zoom instead of in-person. It taught me a lot about teamwork,” Gregg said. 

Gregg also wanted to emphasize that her instructor, Jeff Sherman, was extremely helpful throughout the process. 

“Jeff Sherman made us all feel like we mattered, our ideas mattered no matter what, no matter the circumstance, he was always there for us and wanted to push us during each step of the Jag Challenge,” Gregg said. 

Now that students have done Jag Challenge, Rogers said that the students who participated in the showcase have been given the opportunity to “take their innovation to the next level” with JagStart, IUPUI's annual spring pitch competition. 

For more information, contact the Division of Undergraduate Education Office of Communications at