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UMSI students partner with Polaris and Sponsor United to create corporate solutions

UMSI student Riley Maher worked on the capstone project with a team of students to create this web design for Polaris.
For their capstone project, UMSI student Riley Maher worked with a team to create this web design for Polaris.

Monday, 11/09/2020

The School of Information offers undergraduate seniors the opportunity to connect their academic experiences to the professional world through capstone courses. Students partner with companies to create innovative solutions with lasting impact for real-world corporate problems.

Last Spring, BSI students Caroline Gilhool and Riley Maher applied their UMSI training to assist Polaris and Sponsor United, respectively.

Caroline Gilhool
Caroline Gilhool

Gilhool utilized her specialization in User Design (UX) to personalize the user experience on Polaris’ website by making it more inviting and user centric. Polaris, an off-road and on-road vehicle manufacturer based in Minnesota, gave Gilhool and her three teammates agency in design and matched them with senior UX designers at the company as mentors.

Shawn Cardell, a Polaris digital product design leader, noted the UMSI students were, “curious and really interested in digging into some of the real problems we are trying to solve. They had good and very ambitious ideas for how to connect with customers.” 

The student team conducted research through competitive analysis, evaluation and customer surveys. They then moved into a design phase consisting of sketching and ideation which led to the creation of a personalized user profile. The last phase was validation where the group discovered through prototype testing that their website was preferred by customers over Polaris’ original site. 

Meanwhile, Maher, who specialized in information analysis, spent their capstone course working with Sponsor United. The company operates at an international scale to create sponsorship deals between sports teams and corporations. Through utilizing machine learning, Sponsor United aims to expedite these deals.

Riley Maher
Riley Maher

Maher’s group was tasked with performing predictive analysis with the company’s data to figure out which teams and brands would have successful sponsorships in the future. They first met with a Sponsor United representative to understand the industry and assets involved in each brand deal. Then they performed exploratory data analysis and created a classification model enabling predictive analysis. 

Maher hopes that this first analysis tool of its kind in the sponsorship realm will revolutionize the industry.

By the end of the capstone course, Gilhool said, “you feel really confident that you can do a UX project from start to finish. You can do the research, you can do the design and you can do the validation. Not only is it a good experience to put on your portfolio, but it’s super confidence-building to be able to complete something like this and present it to the client at the end.” 

Maher echoed this sentiment adding, “ I think ultimately it allows you to gain confidence because as you're experiencing [a challenge ] you'd be like, if it comes around again, I'll know how to develop this in a more timely manner and account for issues that might arise.” 

Gilhool now works for Proctor and Gamble on their consumer market knowledge team and Maher is pursuing a Master of Management degree at U-M Ross School of Business.

- Kate Cammell, Writer UMSI