HPI D-School alumni participate in "#WirVsVirus" hackaton

A group of HPI D-School alumni has participated in the "#WirVsVirus" (us against the virus) hackaton, which was hosted by the Federal Government of Germany from March 20 to 22nd. Together, they developed a gamification solution for keeping distance between people in times of the Coronavirus crisis. And they learned a lot about working on a remote Design Thinking project.



HPI D-School Alumni at "WirVsVirus"

A group of HPI D-School alumni followed the call for participation by the Federal Government of Germany and organizations such as Impact Hub Berlin and submitted a project for the “#WirVsVirus” online hackaton.

For this initiative, several organizations and the German government created a digital participation process for citizens and ministries to develop, test and improve solutions in the Corona crisis. Almost 43,000 people participated in the online hackaton, supported by more than 2,900 mentors.

After HPI D-School alumna Anik Jacobsen saw the call for participation on social media, she contacted fellow alumna Seulki Lee. Together they gathered a group of former Advanced Track participants in a video call. Motivated to develop innovative solutions to help people in this unprecedented crisis, they met in a Google Hangout to discuss interesting topics suggested by the hackaton organizers.

In the end, they agreed to work on a project for the topic “Gamification for keeping distance between people”. Participating in this challenge was also a great opportunity for them to learn from conducting a Design Thinking project with online collaboration only and no physical team work.

HPI D-School Alumni Hackaton Team
Some members of the alumni hackaton team

Design Thinking and virtual collaboration

On the first day of the hackaton, the team collaborated using the online platform Mural and Google Hangouts simultaneously. In Mural, you can create a virtual whiteboard, work with post-its, and time box your project steps with an integrated time timer.

"Just like we learned at HPI D-School, we started with team building, followed by the understand phase in the Design Thinking process, conducted interviews with potential users via video call, chat and SMS, used the insights to develop a point of view, and generated ideas in the ideation phase", says alumna Seulki Lee. "We all know each other and Design Thinking, therefore everything worked smoothly, even though our team did not have a mentor."

On the second day of the hackaton, the team faced some challenges. It was difficult to decide which idea to pursue and to actually build a prototype. "Since we were working remotely, it was hard to create a physically tangible prototype like we did at HPI D-School", Seulki reflects.

During their on-site team work at HPI D-School, building physical prototypes also helped them to decide for a specific idea to further develop. In remote Design Thinking however, they could not do that. "We divided our team into small teams to build prototypes. In a small group, there are fewer opinions. We were able to build on each other’s ideas and had these special ‘plus moments’ of Design Thinking", says Seulki.

After each team created their prototype, they presented their ideas to each other. The presentation was helpful to objectively discuss each idea and the complete team was able to agree on one prototype.

To create the final prototype, the team used Adobe XD. They all worked together on the same file to record a pitch video but in different roles. Seulki, being a designer, for example finalized the video file.

Jen Tzen Tan and HPI D-School Alumna Seulki Lee
Program Lead Jen Tzen Tan and alumna Seulki Lee

Gamification for keeping distance

The team’s solution "couch heroes", is a platform to meet friends of friends virtually. A thing that usually happens in real life at bars or parties. The platform offers the user the possibility to connect spontaneously.

"The great thing is, a user can always see how many people they had virtual contact with, "how big your virtual couch has become." In the end, our user will never be home alone", Seulki explains. Their pitch video is available on YouTube and you can also vote for the team on the video platform.

Learnings from remote collaboration

Participating in this hackaton, the team also learned a lot about remote Design Thinking projects. Working with virtual whiteboards is actually very helpful as you can always see all post-its and it’s easy to document the complete work process and contents of a project. Using less paper is also good to save some trees.

Regarding team collaboration, they experienced that in using video calls only one person can speak at a time, which makes people listen to each other more. And during break times, participants can charge their energy by resting individually.

However, the whole project needed much more time than it would have with team work in the same physical room. Since you cannot read your team member’s body language, it took a long time to agree and finish specific project phases. You just need more energy and concentration for communication. Moreover, depending on the internet connection, team work was disrupted sometimes.

In general, the team collaboration is definitely missing a key element of Design Thinking. "We did team check-ins and check-outs, conducted warm-ups via video call. But all in all, the human part of the face-to-face experience was definitely missing in this project", Seulki concludes.

More information about the project

Video summary about Seulki Lee's learnings regarding remote Design Thinking


More innovative ideas from the HPI D-School community

Besides Seulki’s team, some other HPI D-School alumni also worked on innovative solutions for the Corona crisis as part of the hackaton.

Together with a team consisting of medical staff, developers and IT consultants our alumna Ilona Gottschalk created the platform "Covid Report" for the digital communication of (negative) Coronavirus test results. This safe and user friendly solution not only saves stakeholders in the health sector a lot of time and resources. It also makes the status of the testing process trackable for tested persons and therefore may reduce the risk of infection. The hackaton jury selected this solution as on of the top 200 projects among more than 1500 submissions.

Increasing test capacitiy is also crucial in the fight against the Coronavirus. However, many medical test centers lack reagents, equipment and personnel. To address this problem and by using Design Thinking, alumnus Johannes Richers and his team built the digital platform LabHive. With this platform they want to help creating and sustaining a strong diagnostic network. The main aim is to give diagnostic centers efficient access to resources they need to increase test capacity. LabHive brings together qualified volunteers with training and experience, diagnostic centers currently offering SARS-CoV-2 tests, and research laboratories with access to reagents, devices, or suitable lab space. The project was selected for the #WirVsVirus Enabler program and the team is currently working on the beta-version of the solution, supported by the German Ministry for Education and Research.

HPI D-School Alumna Pauline Cremer developed the website Kiezretter together with a team of friends. Through this platform, people can support the shops in their neighborhood with donations. Kiezretter aims to preserve the diversity of local retail, as well as restaurants and the bar scene, even beyond the Corona crisis.

Together with her team "Chancen Check-in", HPI D-School Alumna Carlotte-Elena Schulz also brainstormed on the subject of "Social Distancing". As a target group, they initially focused on (small) companies in the service and retail sectors. Later, they more generally focused their considerations on "entrepreneurial thinkers". The team designed an online platform based on two pillars. On the one hand, the website should include an AI-based digital innovation consultant. Furthermore, they also plan to provide a platform for people who want to share business models and business decisions in a community of like-minded people. Their vision is to support people in rethinking their businesses in order to seize opportunities and act independently.

For the hackaton, alumni team Félix Deraed, Johannes Hiller, Madini Liebscher and Lilian Leifert further developed their prototype from the Design Thinking Advanced Track summer semester 2019. With “Ompi” they present a communications tool that integrates non-smartphone-users into the digital community of their family and friends. Thanks to Ompi older people as well as children and people with limited motoric abilities can communicate via instant messengers such as Whatsapp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger. Using RFDI the technical device enables users to receive multimedia messages and send voice messages to instant messenger chats. To receive pictures and videos, you can also connect Ompti to a TV. This way, Ompi can increase the independence for people with physical and psychological limitations and allow a better quality of life.

As part of a team of around 60 people, alumna Nadia Witte developed a portal where medical staff can find trustworthy suppliers for medical equipment such as FFP2, FFP3 masks and rapid COVID-19 tests. With their “Safe Masks” solution the team wants to help detect fraud with FFP2 and FFP3 masks and help buyers identify safe vendors as well as blacklisted suppliers. As a first step, the team helps users by providing a black and whitelist of current vendors. As a second step they use a visual artificial intelligence to detect fraud via photographs of masks. The project is one of the 130 #WirVsVirus solution enabler projects.

Photos: HPI D-School / Jana Legler and HPI D-School Alumni (Seulki Lee et al)