By Published: Sept. 25, 2020

Three winning groups of undergraduates recognized by the SKO Together Challenge for their creativity in trying to come up with ways to adjust to life during the pandemic.

How might we creatively use our resources to support meaningful connections within our campus community while physically distancing?

That was the question asked—and answered—as part of the University of Colorado Boulder’s first-ever SKO Together Challenge, a student-driven initiative that seeks to figure out how we can recreate campus life while physical distancing. 

In the end, seven individuals from three groups of undergraduate students were named the winners of the contest, including:

  • Emma Goodwill and Ishika Patel, founders of A Third Place: Online Arcade; 
  • Robin Tutchton, Marie Obermeir and Lily-Page Hartwell, founders of More Than Ramen; and
  • Ryan Block and Joshua Sun, founders of Sko Together Zoom Dinners. 

Each team was given $1,500 to launch their ideas, allowing them to turn their plans into reality. 

Alexis Harris

Alexis Harris is one of the student organizer of the SKO Together Challenge.

The SKO Together Challenge involved over 50 undergraduates who were charged with generating ways students around campus could foster a sense of community, while recognizing social distancing during these disconnected times.

At the challenge’s helm was Arts and Sciences Support of Education Through Technology (ASSETT), an organization that promotes the intersection of technology and education, and advocates for a dynamic learning environment. To make this happen, they also partnered with the College of Arts and Sciences’ community engagement initiative; the Research and Innovation Office’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship team; and a team of student organizers, including Alexis Harris, Elise Rosado, and Lily Zafran. 

“It was the student organizers who made this happen. This was truly a student designed and student led initiative,” said Blair Young, the innovation catalyst for ASSET’s Innovation Incubator.

The challenge, which was open to undergraduate students across the university and followed the general structure of a design challenge, took place over a week at the end of July. The projects were then judged by fellow undergraduate students, and winners were announced on Aug. 5.

“We wanted to make sure that everyone felt welcome,” said Harris, a student organizer and co-creator of the SKO Challenge. “We wanted to make sure that is was realistic in that it could be implemented quickly.”

“A lot of it (creating the SKO Challenge) involved creating a brand that really felt true to the CU spirit and true to what being a student at CU is,” said Harris.

I think there’s a really powerful aspect of inclusivity and celebrating diversity and celebrating culture that enables connection through the foods that we cook and then eat together.”

The submissions that took the top spots include:

The Third Place: Online Arcade 

A third place, according to sociologist Ray Oldenburg, is an anchor of community outside of home and work that promotes spontaneous relationships between people of different backgrounds.

For this winning submission, Goodwill and Patel will create a platform designed to connect people via games and interactions, as a way to mimic socialization that students would have otherwise had access to prior to the pandemic. 

More Than Ramen 

More than Ramen, created by Obermeier, Tutchton and Hartwell, is a proposed online platform in which communities can make connections over food by sharing recipes and the stories attached to them.

Sko Together Dinners

The Zoom Dinners, created by Block and Sun, are a way for undergraduate students to share a meal and converse as a way to connect and meet new people remotely.

The Zoom Dinners are held live every Thursday night from Sept. 10 through Oct. 29 at 6 to 6:30 p.m. The link to the dinners can be found here. Registration is also required.

For Young, it’s no surprise that two of the winners revolve around food. 

“I think there’s a really powerful aspect of inclusivity and celebrating diversity and celebrating culture that enables connection through the foods that we cook and then eat together,” said Young.