Digital Media Innovation major Felicia Quichocho is the recipient of the Texas Tribune Engineering Fellowship, the first engineering fellowship offered by the non-profit news organization. The Spring 2020 fellowship will be based in the Tribune’s newsroom in Austin, where Quichocho will help the Engineering Team expand its core website, content management, membership services, platform integrations and analytics products. 

“I’m honored to be a part of this organization and am excited to learn first-hand from amazing developers,” Quichocho said.  “I am so grateful for this opportunity and cannot wait to show what skills and perspective I can bring to the table.”

She will join 2012 SJMC Master’s graduate Ashley Hebler, who is a Front-End Engineer on the Texas Tribune’s Engineering Team.

Quichocho also recently won a virtual reality (VR) hackathon in Austin put on by the Texas State Virtual Reality Development Group (VRDG) at Capital Factory. Quichocho and her partner, computer science student Brandon Abundis, competed against other students from Texas State, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at San Antonio. Students had 10 hours to come up with a VR game related to each team’s given prompt. Their prompt was ‘Hello World from Mars,’ working with the game engine Unity and developing a VR game for the HTC Vive Pro and Oculus Quest.

Quichocho, along with her partner Computer Science major Brandon Abundis, won first place at the Virtual Reality Development Group (VRDG) Hackathon at Capital Factory in Austin, TX

“My partner and I were a little discouraged at first because we were not fluent coders in C# — which is the language Unity uses,” Quichocho said. “However, we just had a game plan of ‘let’s make a working VR game’, and that is what we shot for the whole time and ended up winning,” 

“The experience was awesome, and I did not go in expecting to win,” Quichocho added.

The Virtual Reality Development Group Hackathon attracted students from Texas State, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In October, Quichocho had another professional opportunity, as she was asked by senior lecturer Jon Zmikly to speak at BEA – OnLocation, a Broadcast Education Association (BEA) conference in Boulder, Colo., along with SJMC faculty.

“Most of the conference attendees were educators in broadcasting and media trying to find more immersive ways to tell stories. I was on the panel to give a student perspective on teaching other students how to film 360 videos,” Quichocho said. “I talked about having to think outside the box when it comes to 360 videos because there is no ‘behind the camera’ work when it comes to 360.” 

Quichocho was a panelist at a BEA On-Location conference at the University of Colorado-Boulder in October, adding a student perspective to the panel “Breaking the Rules of Broadcast with 360º”

Quichocho praises Zmikly for his constant guidance and support throughout her time in the SJMC program. She also credits Dr. Cindy Royal for guiding her along the way. “Being a first-generation student it was really hard for me to figure out university life. Professor Zmikly and Dr. Royal showed me my hard work is paying off, and if I continue to be willing to learn and challenge myself it will work out,” Quichocho said.

“I am incredibly proud of Felicia,” Zmikly said. “Not only is she a self-starter, but she is naturally curious and willing to put in the extra work to solve difficult problems. She has great journalistic sense, and I’m excited about where she will go in the future.” 

Royal recognized Quichocho’s affinity for coding in her summer Web Design and Publishing course and recommended that she apply for the fellowship.  “I am eager to see what Felicia learns in this prestigious Texas Tribune fellowship,” Royal said. “It is quite validating of our DMI program when students are competitively selected for positions that integrate technology and media.”

A founding member of the Innovation Club at Texas State focusing on virtual and augmented reality, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, Quichocho is currently doing an independent study with Zmikly, working together to create a VR game. “Right now, I am working on creating a nice cinematic scene for the user to look around in and focus on using interactables the user can use, such as grabbable objects and throwing random objects,” Quichocho said. “I want to incorporate some of the aspects I had in my VR game from the hackathon.”

While others may find coding difficult, Quichocho said she is “attracted to troubleshooting” and challenging herself. She loves being an SJMC student because of the array of career options after earning a degree through the program. “SJMC students can do anything from being a reporter to becoming an app developer,” Quichocho said. “It is awesome to see a program that has such a wide range for students to be successful in and outside of school.”

Quichocho recognizes one of the SJMC prerequisite courses, Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media (FDOM), for assuring her she was in the right field. The course incorporates a variety of digital media assignments, including coding and creating a mobile app. “If I was not introduced to these topics in that class, I do not know where I would be,” Quichocho said.

She is set to graduate in Spring 2020, hoping to learn more development languages and innovation skills following graduation. “My dream job is to open my own gaming company that supports minorities and marginalized people because the gaming industry can and has in the past lacked diversity,” Quichocho said.

Remember her name, Bobcats, for Felicia Quichocho may very well be the next big female game developer!