Ultimately, we designed a scalable mobile application that:


  • Provides scaffolding, supporting the ambassador on multiple levels

    • Facilitates collaboration and camaraderie

    • Tracks progress toward goals

    • Offers recommendations and peer-created tips

    • Provides checklist, event & social media support

    • Checks in regularly with ambassadors to evaluate progress & well-being

  • Emphasizes long-term value and provides short-term scalable options

  • Supports business goals

    • Progress tracking at an individual level, team level, and across universities to inform programmatic decisions


The app was designed in a modular manner, such that MathWorks could implement a subset of features in the short-term, and build out the remainder over time, if they so desired. Site map below.


The achievement gap between children from low-income households and their higher income peers continues to widen. However, research indicates that low-income caregivers can significantly increase their child's academic outcomes by engaging in some simple, yet impactful, activities and behaviors (e.g. talking to their baby). This is particularly true during the critical development years of 0-3. Yet many parents in this user group 

Through my research study (i.e. interviews, focus groups, surveys, ethnography, contextual inquiry), I discovered that existing parenting resources were not reaching or resonating with the most at-risk families. For instance, in focus groups where existing parenting videos were screened by a group of low-income parents and community-based parenting instructors, parents responded with comments such as “It’s not realistic at all,” “My home doesn’t look like that, ” and “That's not my life.” These comments were often coupled with feelings of parent guilt, frustration, and anger.


More specifically, my research indicated that the vast majority of parenting videos failed to connect with and meet the needs of a low-income, underserved audience because they featured two-parent, middle-class households, with well-coiffed mothers and fathers who calmly and effortlessly modeled “best parenting practices.” Many existing videos used formal language, as opposed to vernacular, utilized on-screen text—a challenge for parents with low-literacy—and frequently employed “talking head” experts (quite often white males, which low-income parents generally viewed as "out-of-touch", "condescending," and didactic).


Additionally, the activities promoted in the videos (e.g. STEM activity requiring craft materials) often felt unrealistic and out of reach for these parents, who were under tight time and budget constraints and felt uncomfortable serving in the role of “teacher.” The videos also failed to address the stress experienced by many low-income parents, which is often transmitted to their children through the parent’s behavior and affect. Medical research has shown that, over time, parental stress can derail a child’s development.


My colleague, Jillian Orr, and I realized we needed to reduce, rather than raise, parental stress, through a digital media tool that empowered parents—some of whom felt helpless or disenfranchised—and instilled a sense of confidence that they could positively impact the lives of their children.

Working in partnership with Boston Medical Center, Jillian and I developed a mobile video app, designed for low-income parents and the pediatricians who serve them and their children. The design principles, requirements, and use cases for this video appwhich is currently being designed and wireframedwere drawn from my in-depth user research study. 

Additionally, I worked closely with Jillian to design and facilitate a two-day hackathon...









  • Served as project manager (i.e. scheduled and led team meetings, delegated project work, served as primary point of contact for stakeholders)

  • Created protocol for MATLAB student ambassador and MATLAB student user interviews

  • Conducted interviews with MATLAB student ambassador and student users; reported findings back to team

  • Generated persona based on interview data (i.e. "Ryan")

  • Created conceptual model for UI solution

  • Designed app dashboard, team, and challenge screens, including sketches, wireframes, and medium fidelity prototype in Axure RP

  • Co-wrote final report with colleague Sara Garver

  • Co-created and delivered final presentation to MathWorks stakeholders with colleague Sara Garver

  • Mentored junior team members


  • Understanding stakeholder needs and problem space

  • Generating user research protocols (i.e. non-biased, non-leading interview protocol)

  • Conducting user research (i.e. interviews)

  • Analyzing user research data using affinity diagramming

  • Sketching

  • Wireframing in Balsamiq

  • Generating low- and high-fidelity prototypes in Axure RP

  • Communicating findings to stakeholders (i.e. written report, oral presentation)

Closing the Achievement Gap

Developing a mobile application to support children from low-income families and their caregivers

Want more detail? Read on...


Research: We began our design process by interviewing key stakeholders at MathWorks, including the student ambassador program lead. From that conversation, we derived the institutional and business goals for the program, and established a preliminary problem statement. We then jointly brainstormed the topics and types of questions we wished to discuss with our primary user group: the student ambassadors. I created the interview protocol and conducted an interview with a student ambassador, on behalf of my team. As we were only granted access to one student ambassador, I proactively sought out and conducted interviews with three current MATLAB student users about their experiences with the MATLAB ambassador program and support resources. I reported back all findings to the team. 

Data analysis: Using the user research data collected, we revised our problem statement and project goals. I also generated two personas: a prototypical student ambassador ("Ryan") and a student ambassador program manager at MathWorks ("Jordan"). I shared the personas with the team and integrated their feedback. Two of my team members then devised a series of context scenarios, which we jointly reviewed and revised. Our team also collectively drafted the project scope, assumptions, requirements and criteria, as well as a task analysis for the student ambassador persona.





























Brainstorm & Ideate: We leveraged various digital tools for communication, collaboration, scheduling, and asset management (i.e. Slack,  Realtimeboard, Doodle polls, Google Drive). Realtimeboard, a digital whiteboard that allows for remote collaboration, proved particularly valuable. It enabled us to conduct online data analysis and brainstorming sessions, as well as share sketches, wireframes, and design inspiration. 

We began by utilizing affinity diagramming to organize and analyze the user research data. From that exercise, we identified the key functionality for the UI, and what information would be most pertinent to retrieve and display. We then conducted several initial rounds of brainstorming, including a free association around data collection, data visualization, and gamification. This included finding and sharing visual exemplars culled from existing interfaces.









Finally, we identified our guiding design principles. These included data collection and display, gamification (as a means to motivate and engage), community building, offloading (i.e. let the system handle menial or repetitive tasks), and affective design (e.g. collecting self-reflective data and offering relevant recommendations).


Design: We conducted several rounds of sketching, identifying the most promising concepts. It is important to note that we intentionally did not restrict sketching to a specific platform (e.g. desktop, tablet, smartphone), and considered several non-digital interface solutions/systems as well. Ultimately, we opted for a mobile first UI solution.


We reflected and iterated upon our sketches, then moved to low-fidelity paper and Balsamiq prototypes.

We presented the low-fidelity prototypes to a group of UX designers familiar with the MathWorks brief and project goals. We then channeled their feedback into our first-round, high-fidelity prototype. This prototype was similarly presented for group review and iterated upon. The final prototype was presented to MathWorks stakeholders.

Select screens illustrating the evolution of the dashboard are depicted below.


























Large Heading

Mini-case study
Mini-case study

I drew inspiration from several sources, including pro and fantasy football websites, which featured athlete profiles, leader boards, and forums.

press to zoom
Mini-case study
Mini-case study

Initially, I explored a UI that featured fantasy football-esque profiles.

press to zoom
Mini-case study
Mini-case study

Additionally, ambassadors could ask advice, publish tips, and communicate with their peers. This new approach to the UI could foster collaboration and connection, rather than competition alone.

press to zoom
Mini-case study
Mini-case study

I drew inspiration from several sources, including pro and fantasy football websites, which featured athlete profiles, leader boards, and forums.

press to zoom