FALL 2019 | SPARAKTHON WINNERS

This fall, Sparkathon welcomed more than 320 participants from nearly 30 schools in the area to the Claremont Colleges. Sponsored by Google, The Hive, Pomona College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, and Scripps College, Sparkathon challenged participants to use the human-centered design framework to increase the quality and quantity of voter turnout for a specific user group, an issue of high relevance and importance in the midst of the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Judges witnessed the ideation processes of insightful solutions, ranging from re-designing the voting experience for the visually or audibly disabled to developing information distribution systems among millennials. We are beyond grateful to welcome mentors from the Hive, Google, and Sparkathon’s industry friends who provided invaluable feedback and advice to teams during mentoring sessions. Check out the top teams’ proposals below! 

GRAND PRIZE

$1000

TEAM 7

Jonathan Lo (HMC ‘23)

James Lucassen (HMC ‘23)

Max Hui (HMC ‘23)

Toby Frank (HMC ‘23)

Amy Tam (HMC ‘23)

Georgia Witchel (HMC ‘23)

Our team’s solution is “PoLITical”, an app designed to help illiterate voters and non-native speakers independently fill out political ballots. This app works by scanning the header of general voting paperwork, such as a political ballot, and playing a prerecorded audio tutorial for voters to follow listen to and follow along with. The app will also clarify terms and highlight important sections, particularly those which need signatures or marking. In addition, the app provides access to political resources such as videos and news articles in other languages, so that non-native speakers and illiterate voters may better understand the of political candidates and gain political knowledge.

SECOND PRIZE

$750

TEAM 28 

Patrick Nickols (PO ‘23)

Margherita Andreassi (PO ‘22)

Lauren Quesada (PO ‘22)

Elena Vedovello (PO ‘23)

For our demographic, we focused on voters with visual impairment and found out their voter turnout is quite low because of complications at ballot centres. Voters who are visually impaired often find malfunctioning voting machines and end up having to trust a stranger to cast their vote. In general, they prefer to vote from home with a trusted person who would fill in their ballot for them. However, for voters who are visually impaired, secrecy and autonomy are not possible with the current system, which discourages them from voting. Therefore, we decided to render voting as similar to the voters' way of living as possible. We focused on their comfort, their autonomy and the senses they use to design our prototype: tactile postal ballots. These are ballots that are based on tactile patterns and are connected to an audio file that explains what candidate each texture corresponds to. Next to the candidate's pattern there is a surface that should be poked for the vote to be cast. This way, the voter is guaranteed secrecy and complete autonomy. The voting can be done at home, in complete comfort, and sent by post. Rendering voting easier, secret, and autonomous for voters with visual impairment would improve their quantity and quality of voter turnout.

THIRD PRIZE

$500

TEAM 30

Elise Meike (HMC ‘23)

Julienne Ho (SC ‘23)

Leona Das (SC ‘23)

Mariam Abu-Adas (SC ‘23)

McKenna Blinman (SC ‘23)

To increase voter turnout among hospital workers, we proposed legislation that would implement polling stations in hospitals. Through our initial decision to focus on inpatient individuals in hospitals, we interviewed several healthcare workers and found that they often had as much – and sometimes more – difficulty with voting as their patients did. From our observations, doctors, nurses, and general hospital staff seem to be educated, politically interested people who care about the welfare of their communities, and this made sense to us due to the nature of their work. However, their turnout is regularly negatively impacted by complex shift schedules; in the case of our primary user, Joe, shifts were regularly 12 hours and sometimes involved 24-hour on-call periods, and feels as though American voting system is dispassionate about whether he can vote. Through brainstorming and iterating, we honed in on our solution: pop-up polls. These polling places, contrary to the majority of existing stations, would operate independently from one's address, using hospital IDs to verify eligibility instead. The reasoning behind only allowing those ordinarily working there to vote at these stations is to minimize the disruption in the daily workflow of these critical locations while mitigating voting-related inhibitors for these individuals. As such, we propose that most of these polling tents be put in parking lots near entrances such that workers can easily engage with them before or after their shifts. Pop-up polls would allow for a large population of busy, benevolent, and passionate voters to participate in our democracy by catering to their convenience.

RUNNER-UPS

$100

TEAM 17 

Anqi Zhou (Minerva ‘23)

Pedro Filgueiras Haschelevici (Minerva ‘23)

Gordon Yuan Ning Ma (Minerva ‘23)

Ryoga Umezawa (Minerva ‘23)

Ingrid Håbrekke (Minerva ‘23)

TEAM 32 

Max Proctor (CMC ‘22)

Jamie Cockburn (CMC ‘22)

Olivia lenfestey (PZ ‘22)

Kate Weinberg (PZ ‘22)

TEAM 50 

Allison Sullivan Wu (PO ‘22)

Lucie Abele (PO ‘22)

Vivika Kapoor (USC ‘23)

Kayla Son (USC ‘20)

Bonnie Hui (USC ‘21)

TEAM 54 

Jesse (Arcadia High School ‘20)

Kazandra Zelaya (CMC ‘21)

Jennifer Granados (CMC ‘23)

Kevin Wan (HMC ‘23) 

Jean Pierre Nizeyumukiza (HMC ‘23)

Linda Li (HMC ‘23)

We targeted first-generation voters who are the first in their immediate family to engage in American election voting process and we found they had trouble in understanding voting processes and political terms without assistance from parents, getting support from family members to vote and addressing political conflicts within their family. In order to address this problem, we proposed The Future First educating system, consisting of an interactive online website and a one-day workshop. We plan to provide three branches of materials for first-generation voters. Firstly, we would like to debunk myths about US election to incite curiosity and persuade voters with benefits of voting. Secondly, we would like to provide guidance that other voters received from their parents to first-generation voters, like infographics explanation of key terms and effective ways to address political conflicts with parents and motivate potential voters  in family. Finally, for any upcoming election, we will provide a condensed and youth-tailored list of proposal that candidates have.