For eight months, a seven-person team of undergraduate students, including Graphic Design sophomore Christina Warren, worked to develop technology that could help students find a more efficient academic path to graduation- and in September that work paid off.
Warren -the lone student from the College of Arts and Architecture- Michael Roos, Benjamin Proto, Thanh Tran, Quinn Verbeke, Mathew Mancini, Dylan Shoemaker, and faculty adviser Wang-Chien Lee from the College of Engineering were awarded first place in the 2018 Nittany AI Challenge.
As part of the award, the team received $30,000 to further develop “LionPlanner,” an application designed to help students navigate academic planning by making the process quicker and less complex.
“The opportunity to participate in the Nittany AI Challenge was truly invaluable, and our team never imagined that so much would come from it,” Warren said. “The future of LionPlanner looks bright. We've seen an incredible reaction from Penn State and have even received interest from another university.”
LionPlanner uses a natural language-processing technique called "term frequency-inverse document frequency" and other traditional algorithms to identify courses for students based on their interests. The app exports results that could assist academic advisers through the planning process and encourages students to plan ahead in an effort to ensure efficient navigation of various academic paths.
“LionPlanner was selected to receive the most funding due to the widespread and immediate impact that the product can make on the student experience and its potential to create efficiencies that would enable advisers to utilize their time with more students to focus on strategic conversations,” Tracey Huston, vice president for Penn State Outreach and member of both the award and review committees, said. “The pitch and product generated enthusiastic support among the reviewers and judges for these reasons.”
The app’s potential to impact large numbers of students at Penn State and other universities is a driving force behind the team’s work, according to Warren. Combining that goal with her graphic design training has led to the desire to provide an intuitive and user-friendly experience for students, which she believes can lead to the user’s academic success.
“We would love to see more students taking control of and getting the most from their college careers, graduating on time and ultimately saving time and money.” Warren said. “Our team can't wait to see how much of a difference we can make with LionPlanner and its many possibilities.”