Columbia Students Partner With NASCAR to Create Race-Themed Games

You don’t have to be a race enthusiast to enjoy the interactive activities produced by Columbia students in preparation for the NASCAR Chicago Street Race.

At Columbia College Chicago, faculty like Assistant Professor Jo-Nell Sieren often bring in companies to provide students client-based learning experiences. And this year, Sieren took the checkered flag for the win when NASCAR Chicago Street Race accepted her invitation to partner with two of her classes to create family-friendly interactive digital activities and a print publication for the NASCAR Chicago Street race on July 6-7. 

Connections Count 

Sieren’s connection with NASCAR came from her time with leading the Industry Relations Team in the Columbia Career Center, a gig she held prior to becoming a full-time faculty member.  

“In my role in the Career Center, I had worked with NASCAR Chicago … They were so great to work with that when I was putting together what the client would be for this class, I just reached out to see if there was something that they would be interested in doing in terms of a partnership.” 

Little did Sieren realize that her outreach to NASCAR Chicago would eventually lead to the development of not one but three products that NASCAR Chicago and Columbia would fully implement: 

  • An interactive trivia game to test your NASCAR knowledge 
  • A time-reaction game to test your reflexes against famous drivers 
  • An engaging, colorful, and educational activity book for NASCAR's younger attendees 

“It’s pretty exciting,” says Sieren who worked with her classes to not only make the two games and a publication that is available as a downloadable booklet online, but to thoroughly document their process and recognize the contributions of the team of students

The NASCAR Chicago Street Race team share in Sieren’s excitement about this collaboration and what the Columbia students brought to the table.  

"These incredible students have been able to create something unique, innovative, and authentic to Chicago that will enhance the event weekend experience for fans from around the globe," says Julie Giese, NASCAR Chicago Street Race President. "We are proud to partner with Columbia's students to bring this collaboration to life in a way that provides real, hands-on learning opportunities throughout the year."  

Project Mirrors Real-World Collaboration 

This enthusiasm extended to Sieren’s classes — Interactive Arts and Media Design Team and Studio Collaboration — which included students from different majors and programs, such as User Experience, Graphic Design, Programming, and Game Art. 

“This experience gave me a lot of insight on what this kind of work would look like in the real world,” says Jaylee Lambino, a rising senior and User Experience and Interaction Design major. “I honestly enjoy working on a big team. Just because you are a UX designer or a programmer, it doesn't mean you have to stay in that lane.” 

The students worked on three teams, each focused on one of the deliverables. Throughout the project, students met with and presented to members of NASCAR Chicago, gathering their feedback and insights and fine-tuning the projects until completion.  

The NASCAR team included Julie Giese, Chicago Street Race President; Beth Blackman, Marketing and Community Relations Coordinator; Caryn Grant, senior director, Diversity and Inclusion/Community Engagement; Michelle Weddige, senior director, Business Strategy; Jacqueline Herrera, director, Community Relations; and Melina Cañellas, director, Interactive Application and Strategy. 

Nancy Dumitru ’24, a then-senior majoring in Graphic Design with a minor in User Experience, acted as a project manager. And like her peers, she found the experience of working with an interdisciplinary team invaluable.  

“I learned a lot just from being able to talk to different people, different majors, not just graphic designers, but everyone.” 

Working with an actual client like NASCAR Chicago, also proved educational says the team’s lead designer Alua Amangeldikyzy ‘24, a then-senior majoring in Graphic Design with a minoring in User Experience.  

“We went through so many iterations with the NASCAR team, and it was a big learning experience for all of us because we didn't expect them to be so detail oriented,” she says. “I think that made us more detail oriented as well, and just made us become perfectionists with our work and that was really helpful.” 

In the end, though, it was all worth it. 

“Having our work out there is so surreal. I honestly don't believe it's happening, but it's been such an amazing experience. I learned so much from it,” Dumitru says. “To see it actually come into fruition is a beautiful thing.”  

 

Ready to Play?  Get the NASCAR TRACKS app! Just click on Chicago Street Race and then “Games.”