UMAI UX Challenge. The hackathon model as a complementary learning strategy.

Maimónides UniversityArgentina


Production / Professional


This project was born as my Multimedia Technology Bachelor’s thesis and nowadays continues as a line of research at Maimónides University, working with the other 3 coordinators, Valeria Drelichman, Ayelén Santamaría & Facundo Colantonio.


Interaction design can help in shaping new educational experiences that favor engagement. Following this idea we designed an educational competition, UMAI UX Challenge. It’s a modified hackathon that uses the design process to create an experience that encourages collaborative and motivational learning. This proposal can be replicated to expand it’s impact.

We understood this as a design process of an experience that should make users the protagonists, in this case, High School and University students, and also industry professionals as mentors. We proceeded with an empathic approach to learn about their friction points.

We conducted several interviews to know more about positive and negative interactions between students and the university. One of the main friction points that came into light was the uncertainty that high school students have when choosing a career path.

University students mentioned the need to see “the real world”, as they call it, talking about the fact that they want to have more clarity about the industry’s practices. They want to interact with the industry’s representatives and they are eager to understand how to apply what they learn in class in a corporate environment.

The idea consisted of designing an educational event that could:
Introduce new content, in this case, related to UX Design, into the University’s curriculum
Help closing the gap between the industry and the University
Allow working with big multidisciplinary groups

We were able to ideate solutions that answered student’s main friction points and they responded positively by demonstrating a greater interest in learning UX design.

80 students divided into 19 teams participated in the second hackathon. The teams had four better-planned roles: a coordinator, a researcher, a designer, and a prototyper. We also had an open call for industry professionals at design meetups in Argentina. As a result, 40 leaders specialized in different areas of UX signed up as mentors.

The interaction with mentors reduces the learning curve. Teams had multiple points of view, adding value to the student’s critical thinking. They had to process several feedbacks, relate those to their projects, iterate and evolve their proposals.

It’s interesting to observe how this kind of event puts students in an induced learning situation as they learn about collaborative work. This was possible with organizational techniques they learned and certain tips about dealing with conflicts that mentors offered to each team.

A clear example is that the winning team of the second hackathon was composed by students between 17 and 22 years old who met for the first time at the first day of the event and reached professional results in just one week.

The model used by UMAI UX Challenge can be reused in a flexible way to teach new content taking these elements into account.
The healthy competition climate with a clear objective
Organizational techniques and tools provision
Using an in between week, a hackathon anti-pattern, to put specific knowledge into practice
Mentoring from industry leaders
Theoric modules designed with an empathic language
Presentation of the progress done during the event.


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