10:40 AM

'Meme Attack' winner draws from fountain of inspiration

A three-panel comic. In the first panel, a smiling face near a water fountain says 'Oh boy, I can't wait to drink this delicious water from the fountain in Stem Building!' In panel 2, the face is unchanged, with the text 'turns on' as blue water begins to leave the fountain. In panel 3, the still smiling face is sprayed with a huge stream of water.
Mariana Canino's meme, poking fun at the water fountains in the STEM and Classroom Building, won a $500 prize.

If you're a University of Houston-Clear Lake student with classes in the STEM and Classroom Building, you probably know that the water fountains in that building have a mind of their own. In fact, unless you'd like to get sprayed in the face, it's probably best you bring your own water bottle.

Mariana Canino, a junior working toward her Bachelor of Fine Arts with Graphic Arts concentration, heard there would be a "Meme Attack" competition in which students could submit a meme describing a well-known aspect of life at UH-Clear Lake. She works as a graphic designer in the Office of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and she decided to create a meme about the famed water fountains in the STEM and Classroom Building.

"I thought it would be fun, and a good opportunity," Canino said. "Memes are usually derived from people trying to find something light or funny in a bad situation. So, I asked around and thought about what I could make fun of around campus."

Senior Coordinator for Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving Reggie Jones said the inspiration for the competition came from a UHCL alumna who wished to remain anonymous. "She did a similar project during her time at UHCL, and she wanted to provide a fun way for all students, regardless of major, to express their creativity and share in their UHCL experience," Jones said. "There were 17 submissions. Overall, she was very pleased with the ideas that came in, and is looking forward to more students participating in next semester's competition."

Jones added that the memes were judged by a panel consisting of two members of the Marketing and Communications team, and Associate Professor of Communication Leo Chan.

Canino said she thought the meme about the water fountains would be funny. "It's just a joke, because we all know you don't actually get a drink of water, you just get your face wet," she said. "It took me about 10 minutes to put it together, I just played with the wording a little. I was really surprised it resonated with people."

She created the meme to have three panels, like a comic strip. "I showed it first to everyone I worked with, and they just chuckled," she said. "I didn't have much hope for it to take off, but I guess others have had a similar experience." She was shocked to find out she'd won the $500 prize for the best meme.

She said she believed that good memes didn't take a lot of thinking — they just happen, like a joke that just comes out.

"If you have to think about it too much, then it's not funny. It's a nice resume builder," she said. "I am still thinking about what I'd like to do with the money — maybe I'll buy an Apple watch."

Till then, she said, she advises students to stand clear of the water fountains in the STEM and Classroom Building.