Creative Learning

Our Hack4Impact journey with UIUC (Illinois) students

Unstructured Studio

Hack4Impact is a student-led initiative that aims to pair university students with non-profits working on software projects focused on social impact. Thirteen universities in the United States have a Hack4Impact chapter supporting the broader mission of the initiative. We partnered with Hack4Impact's University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) chapter to help build new and exciting features for ZubHub, our creative learning and collaboration platform expanding access to low-cost opportunities for children in underserved communities.

Hack4Impact + Unstructured Studio celebrating project outcomes

At Unstructured Studio, we support open source and open knowledge practices. We work in the open and develop educational resources available for free, that anyone can use, remix, and contribute. Following the same ethos, we released ZubHub as an open source software earlier this year. Since the release, we have been looking for mentoring opportunities to draw new contributors to our project. As a learning-centered organization, people in our team are passionate about mentoring young minds. Hack4Impact precisely aligned with our vision and seemed like the right opportunity for us.

In the spring semester of 2022, 7 students from UIUC worked on ZubHub in varying capacities and roles - software developers, technical leads, designers, and product managers. For the entire project, students focused their efforts on building new features and improving the user interface/user experience of the ZubHub application. One of the significant features students worked on was developing a notification system to notify users of various events via WhatsApp, SMS, Email, or Web app when someone comments on their project, starts following them, bookmarks or claps on their project, etc.

Notification dropdown on the right showing various events supported by the feature

ZubHub's search feature also received a significant overhaul - it is now much more intuitive and advanced - users can search by projects, creators, and tags and see multiple search results for a given keyword. Students worked on other features to have a streamlined project upload and viewing projects that allowed submission in draft mode, seeing recommended projects, compressing videos for easier uploading, etc.

Search box showing various project results 
"My favorite part of working on ZubHub was every single person. Before this semester started, I wasn't familiar with most people, and it has been great to get to know everybody and have more bonding experiences. We are particularly blessed to have worked with Unstructured Studio team. Talking to kids in India was extremely gratifying - it is always great to hear from people you are trying to develop for." - Hack4Impact member

Students worked pretty autonomously on the project, with periodic code review help and high-level technical guidance on the features from our team. They came up with ideas and suggestions throughout the project, such as hosting a design feedback session with our child users - we felt it was a pleasant cultural exchange - students in the US met children in India remotely. We thoroughly enjoyed working with UIUC students: Aditya Jain, Albert Cao, Andrew Lester, Anthony Cruz Macedo, Cindy Phung, Grace Zhang, and Zoran Zhang. We want to thank them for their top-notch contributions, for handling the project as working professionals, and for all that has helped evolve the platform to the next level.

Learn more about the Hack4Impact initiative here: We highly recommend working with them!

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