NOTE: This is the latest in a series of Q&A stories featuring Brock University faculty members who are integrating the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games into their research projects. For more information on Brock’s academic activities around the Games, visit brocku.ca/canada-games
Canada Games Research Spotlight: Poling Bork
Poling Bork is a Senior Lab Instructor and Mentor in the Faculty of Mathematics and Science’s Department of Computer Science. She guides students in their career paths and facilitates their involvement as research assistants and co-presenters at conferences. Bork is also the Executive Director and Director of Research for the Selective Mutism Foundation.
Bork is one of 11 Brock researchers and scholars who received funding under the 2019-2020 round of the VPR Canada Games Grant program. Here, she discusses her research project titled “Canada Games Athlete Village software application (AV app).”
Please give a brief overview of your research project.
In the summer of 2022, more than 4,000 athletes across Canada will reside in Brock University’s residences over two weeks while competing in the Canada Games (CG). Information on such issues as where to get food, how to access transportation to competitions, things to do while on campus, where to seek medical attention or who to contact during an emergency needs to be readily available. It would also be helpful to provide athletes and coaches with updated information pertaining to the Games such as scores and events schedules. Considering these young athletes will be away from their families, social networking opportunities connecting them with other athletes on campus will help them to feel more at home. Therefore, to enhance athletes’ experiences of staying at Brock, the Canada Games Athlete Village software application (AV app) contains three main components: campus resources, game information and online social networking.
What do you expect will be the outcome of your research?
It is our hope that the Canada Games AV app will not only be used for 2022 Canada Games, but that it may also be adopted by the CG Host for future Games. As well, we are confident that once developed, the dynamic map to navigate around Brock’s campus will be very useful for all students and visitors to Brock.
How will this contribute to knowledge or understanding of the Canada Summer Games?
Developing this large-scale software with a small team required much research and planning prior to, and throughout, the development process. For instance, the importance of user interface that adheres to the CG Host branding needed to be considered. I have been communicating with the Canada Games Host Society to obtain permission using the branding as well as advice pertaining to the logistics for athletes to use the AV app during Canada Games.
Prior to developing the AV app, I stressed the importance of the UX (User Experience) design with my team. Software with UX design allows end users to determine what their experience of the software will be. My team interviewed coaches and sent emails to a group of Brock athletes to understand what they would like to see in the AV app based on their experiences competing away from home. Once the main components of the app were identified, the programming language in which the app will be developed in was considered. Similarly, a commercial database needed to be identified to consider the storage and the dynamic, real-time retrieving of secured data. We consulted Brock’s legal counsel to draft user agreements. Because most CG athletes are under the age of majority, more consideration is still needed.
We have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and understanding of the Canada Games during the planning of the app. Once the app is completed and implemented in next year’s Games, we hope to explore the athletes’ experiences using the app, and hope to improve the features based on their feedback. This research project has provided a deeper understanding on the challenges of developing a mobile app that is tailored for young Canada Games athletes who may become Canada’s future Olympians and world athlete champions.
How did you become interested in this research?
I have always been interested in creating software applications, specifically in the form of serious games. Serious games are software programs designed with intended purposes, aside from pure entertainment, such as education and intervention. Specifically, I love to show our students how computer science can be an integral part of a multidisciplinary project. For instance, computer science students would develop software to help young children overcome social phobia within school settings. This involves the Departments of Computer Science, Child and Youth Studies, Psychology and Education.
Since 2011, I have been actively pursuing experiential learning opportunities to help my students apply what they’re learning, which also enhances their portfolios for the competitive workforce. Hence, I started collaborating with researchers from other disciplines, supervising our students and involving them in numerous serious games. When I heard about this funding opportunity where I could help my students develop something exciting and meaningful for the Canada Summer Games, I jumped on it right away.
How do you plan on sharing your research?
Upon completion of the app, we plan on providing a presentation at a Brock-Canada Games Research Showcase. I will also assist my students to identify and draft conference proposals to help disseminate the innovative product in technological conferences.
Do you have any advice or tips on how colleagues in your Faculty can incorporate the Canada Games into their research?
As a member of the Canada Games Steering Committee for the past two years, I have been encouraging colleagues in our unit to incorporate the Canada Games into their research, and I believe some are already in the process of doing so. I’m super excited for them and would love to urge other researchers to reach out to the Canada Games Host Committee and Brock’s Canada Games Committee and discuss how they may incorporate CG into their research. My project would not have been possible if I did not seek out, nor secure the generous funding and support from all stakeholders.