Third-place overall. Second-place student vote. Our hackathon team, Zotology, spent the past quarter redesigning the University of California, Irvine’s student enrollment experience. In past hackathons, I explored back-end development, with a touch of project management. And spent way less time on them… This time around, I leaned into my soft-skills, touched upon UI/UX, and was able to go more into the process of requirements engineering.

Zotology’s Front Page

One of the best parts of this project was reaching out to other students and professors, and materializing the interactions I’ve have in the workplace and as a student. Elicitation went a long way in understanding our student body, and actually sitting down with my requirements engineering professor was really a one of a kind experience. A joy from higher education is actually practicing what I’m concurrently learning in that class right now. This process put into perspective a key issue that our current registrar systems as a whole is very antiquated and disjunctive.

Design wise, we looked no further than the admissions page and other UCI sites. A welcoming site to our prospective students. We believed a new WebReg had to be friendly to new and existing users apart. Where maintaining consistency across all different views (student, professor, and counselor) was crucial. I got to play with wire framing and Figma, and it was fun quickly drafting these designs. I specifically used the elicitation with my professor to make Professor View, but finding the UCI resources were also helpful in the time crunch.

A wireframe on the left of Counselor View, Figma design on the right of Counselor View

We delivered great features on our working demo, and something we were proud of was advanced search. This was my first time interacting and seeing a database become populated in action. I didn’t spend the night with our primary software developers who were parsing data from UCI’s Schedule of Classes and database of buildings, but I sure did see the 5am messages of excitement on Discord.

Our main developers looking over code.

As someone who designed both presentations, we can definitely tell how my style derives from Apple keynotes. We brought the energy, but honestly failed to compose ourselves in ten-minutes. My next step here is to continue calming my anxiety within, while finding my own unique presenting style that matches my energy and confidence in products I’ll get to deliver, presentations I’ll get to give, and even tours I’ll get to give.

A summary of Student View features.

I will mention how funny the Twitter algorithm works, since I happen to possibly be on the design-side of things now. I even discovered this wonderful thread which shed light on how the Apple-esq summary slides go beyond their slides.

As a team, and as a product, Zotology definitely wasn’t perfect. But making it to top-five, then finishing at top-three is an achievement in itself. Pulling college all-nighters, seeing our code compile and run, while seeing our designs translated into code. There was always something to be excited about throughout this project, and each team member’s personality really got to shine throughout.

To step-up to the plate to redesign WebReg was to challenge something that’s been untouched in ages. And overall, I have a lot of respect for the other teams we competed against. For the equally as intensive work they put in for user discovery, and for bringing tools that would actually automate schedule planning, shoutout to Coloaf. Especially when, to be fair, our student-curated planning could only go so far.

This was never just about WebReg, it was also about a team who’d be insane enough to do something about it.

Overall, I am grateful to have worked with a one-of-a-kind team. And to have worked on my soft-skills, and to discover more within the field of technology. We’re definitely stronger people after this. And there is definitely much to think between now and the next hackathon, personal project, or wherever life decides to take us next.