The PIC your Future College Readiness App was 1 of 2 winning prototype ideas born out of the Learning Mode Hackathon in 2013. Drawing inspiration from the practice of taking selfies, I wanted to center engagement with the app around the idea of students visualizing their own college future through digital compositing. This was important because for our target demographic (low-income, first-generation college students) research overwhelmingly demonstrates that such students do not often ‘see’ themselves as college bound, or cannot visualize a path to this future. PIC your Future would allow students to composite images of themselves in various college backgrounds as a means of visualizing self-actualization, with a storyboarding feature that would allow them to author this story.
Both winning Hackathon ideas were given the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a team at the University of California’s Office of the President, and PIC was selected for further funding and development. In the Fall of 2014, I helped lead a course at UC Berkeley offered through the Berkeley Center of New Media along with Dan Gillette, where we worked with an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students to develop a prototype of the app. We ran the course like a small start-up, with a focus on developing interdisciplinary skills and collaboration. The class was innovative in terms of its conception and format, as well as delivered on the promise of a prototype.
Most recently, we were awarded another round of funding, this time to run a summer course (2015) as part of the Early Academic Outreach Program’s Pre-College Academy. Modeled after the Berkeley Center for New Media course, during the 6-week STEAM course called StartUP University, 25 high school students worked together in a start-up simulator to learn about app design, technology development, and to ultimately build feature extensions to the PIC your Future prototype. For the course, I developed a project-based, interdisciplinary curriculum that included hackathons, product reviews and testing, demographics research, and numerous tech-related activities.
During the class, students learned about interaction design, rapid prototyping, user experience and user personas, creating marketing and growth hacking strategies, drafting business and legal plans, developing content and art, and coding. Students collaborated daily with Berkeley engineers and were also visited by over a dozen tech industry professionals, who presented briefly on their own work and joined student teams to collaborate side by side in developing various aspects of the app.