Problem statement:

We (Team FunHack) were intrigued by the dual problem faced by the colleges & students in USA.

  • Missing out on Billions of dollars in unclaimed financial aid
  • High college dropout rates (40% for undergraduate college students)

For details, please refer to the links below

Frank Finds 1.2 Million Students Missed Out on Billions in Unclaimed Aid In 2018, an estimated 1.2 million students missed out on billions in unclaimed aid for college, leaving over $2.6 billion in Pell Grant funds (Written by - Autumn Haile., Estimated reading time - 7 minutes)

College Dropout Rate [2020]: by Year + Demographics Did you know, that in the United States, dropout rate for undergraduate college students is 40%. Nearly a third of college freshman drop out before their sophomore year (Written by - Jaleesa Bustamante, Estimated reading time - 11 minutes)

Putting Students first "Based on the latest college completion trends, only about half of all those students (54.8 percent) will leave college with a diploma. The rest — most of them low-income, first-generation, and minority students — will not finish a degree. They’ll drop out.” (Written by -Bill Gates, Estimated reading time - 6 minutes)

The above problems inspired us to conceive and design the UPLIFT app, that colleges can use to help students to find funding and also volunteering opportunities/tasks to improve oneself, the college and the community at large.

What it does

The UPLIFT App has been conceived and designed for use by a college or university e.g. say DC College, to connect the college administration with the college students in need.

The key personas for the UPLIFT App in the pitch video are

  • Mr. Phil, President of DC college
  • Miss Jenny, the tuition administrator
  • Lydia, a LAW of the many students of DC college, who need financial assistance.

Here are the capabilities of UPLIFT from the point of view, of each of these personas:

  • Lydia, the college student needs to first register to the UPLIFT App. Note that UPLIFT only allows those with valid college IDs to register. On login, Lydia can add her need.
  • Miss Jenny, Tution Administrator at DC College, can add a list of pre-approved students in need to UPLIFT e.g. those couldn't pay previous semester fees.
  • On login Miss Jenny can see the needs raised by students. Note that UPLIFT just shows the needy student id, to minimize bias in decisions.
  • Jenny reviews and approves the need raised by the students. Also after checking on fund availablity, Jenny can commit to fulfilling the needs raised.
  • Mr Phil, the college president has encouraged the students to proactively take up tasks on UPLIFT, to help one-self, the college and the community. Each task had an UPLIFT score, and the DEAL was for students to accumulate a minimum score of 500 points in a semester.
  • Lydia can take up any of existing tasks or she can create a task in UPLIFT, for college approval.
  • Miss Jenny can mark the previously committed needs as fullfilled, on getting confirmation on the same, from the accounts department.

Watch the UPLIFT video for more!

Benefits of UPLIFT:

  • Bias free allocation of college funds for needy students, throughout their tenure in college
  • UPLIFT allows only persons with valid college IDs to register. Also the college administration needs to review and approve the needs in UPLIFT. This minimizes the possibility of misuse and fraud
  • Students also take up opportunities/tasks for self improvement, service to college and community
  • Reducing Dropout rates, in turn bridging gaps in Education and reduce unemployment
  • Encouraging Colleges and Universities to sow the seeds of Social and Economic justice

How we built it

First step was to bring together and form a team. Reached out to connections/ex-collegues on LinkedIn network. We formed a mixed team of 4 persons outside Finastra and 2 from within Finastra.

Next step was a series of design sprints with the team, looping through problem finding/reframing, ideating and prototyping...finally converging on UPLIFT.

Our team member in USA, talked to few college students, pitching the idea of UPLIFT. They felt the idea was great, and would help them a lot. As of now, they had to take an appointment with the student counselor and wait for their turn. Also, they didn't know what are the options out there, to request help; sometimes even missing out, on getting any help.

WE decided to create a mobile app and chose javascript based hybrid frameworks & libraries (Angular, Ionic, Capacitor) to develop the App.

Challenges we ran into

Converging on the final idea for the hackathon was a challenge, as there were many possibities. The initial thought was to target schools for UPLIFT, but after research, we found that school education is mostly free in USA. We pivoted the UPLIFT idea to support US colleges, where the need was real & acute.

Each one of us were invested in this hackathon, over and above our existing work and family commitments and emergencies. One of the team members who initially joined us had to leave the team, due to a work emergency.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Despite all the challenges, we coped well as a team, using Agile approaches of visualizing all the work and regular sync-ups and demos.

We are proud of having conceived and designed UPLIFT, considering that this was the first ever hackathon for most of us on the team. We look forward to participating in many more hackathons, in future.

What we learned

We learned a lot during this hackathon. The developers gained insight on the problem,need, persona centered design approach. We also gained insights into hybrid App development using javascript based frameworks like Ionic and Capacitor.

Also thanks to the Hackathon organizing team for arranging some great sessions. We gained lot of insights from the session on "Inequality" by Renee @ African American Credit Union Coalition (AACUC). And from the session on "Removing bias from technology" by Camille @ Goshaba.

What's next for UPLIFT

We could evolve UPLIFT further, with support from the hackathon sponsors.

Next steps could be to

  • Pilot UPLIFT in couple of colleges in the US e.g. in Orlando-Florida or Austin-Texas where Finastra has Centres of Excellence.
  • Onboard Donors (e.g. Alumni) to UPLIFT
  • Onboard Partners (e.g. Financial Institutions, sites like Scholarship Finder)
  • Onboard Corporates (e.g. Finastra)

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