MHCI Capstone 2015



Our client, RootIO, aims to rebuild radio in the era of wifi and peer production for and with rural communities in the global south. They build microstations powered by small FM transmitters and Android smartphones.

Project Space

Our project was focused on finding ways the diaspora could help their peers in developing countries obtain graduate degrees and international experience. Diaspora members are eager to share their knowledge with those at home.


We are four masters students in Human-Computer Interaction from the dual degree program with Carnegie Mellon Universiy and the University of Madeira, Portugal. We specialize in development and UX/visual design.

Our Process

Diaspora Research

The initial research focused on the Ugandan diaspora and citizens of Uganda in order to understand both groups needs and the relationship between them.

Student Research

The second round of research focused on international students from developing countries, the application process, and challenges they faced.


We designed a mentor-matching service and personal assistant using WhatsApp. We then built a functional prototype and tested it with potential users.


Diaspora Space

Research Papers & Books Understanding technology usage in Africa.
User Interviews Learning about the target demographic: their hopes, needs and desires.
Survey Respondents Aiming to identify diaspora links to home while abroad.

Student Space

Student & Expert Interviews Ascertaining student motivations and hurdles. Also, garnering expert opinions.
Market Space Competitors From graduate school international students to prospective international grad students.
Mentor Study Participants Understanding what is involved in a successful mentorship.


Common Knowledge

Many international students lack the common knowledge needed to be a competitive candidate during the application process. Their undergraduate application process was different and usually simpler.

Financial Resources

Financial resources can be a limiting factor when it comes to the types of programs international prospective students can apply to and the amount of preparedness they can afford.

Real Commitment

Mentors are excited to share their knowledge but do not want to do everything for the mentee. They also want mentees that are committed and determined to get through the process.

Design Process


Service design model

We sketched out the mentor and mentee experience, from the initial onboarding to moving to a new country. We also designed a shared wiki that considered feedback loops to build up knowledge collected.


Designing a web & mobile platform

We envisioned a web-based quiz and portal experience, whereby students would be matched with mentors online and track their progress within their own profiles. Conversations with mentors would be held separately, within WhatsApp.


Designing a personal assistant

We decided to build the service entirely within WhatsApp to improve ease of use and accessibility. We began building a WhatsApp bot – called Unibot – to assist the mentee and developed a command library, tree structure, and design principles.


Evaluating the service

We created a working system in Telegram, that was a close simulation to what the WhatsApp experience would be. We traveled to London and had prospective, current and graduated students test the system to find out what was working well and pain points.


Unibot commands, splash page & backend

We updated the commands and menu tree structure based on the feedback we received during testing. We also developed a backend server and built a splash page for mentors and mentees to learn about the service.

How it works

Herbert joins Envision by adding Unibot, a personal assistant, on WhatsApp.
Unibot asks Herbert for his personal information and has him do a tutorial.
Herbert is matched with a mentor that will advise him through the application process.
Through commands to Unibot Herbert accesses college resources and a checklist.
The mentor answers any questions and provides guidance.
With the support from Envision Herbert is able to go to college in the UK.

Final Design


Welcome statement, gathering information, and tutorial

Unibot introduces the system to the prospective student and then takes them through a serious of questions to gather their information. Afterwards, they go through a tutorial to understand how the system works.

Resources and tools

Using Commands and Help to access your Checklist, Status, and Infobank

Through commands the prospective student can maintain a personalized checklist, update their progress in the process and access helpful information in the infobank. If he/she forgets the commands they can all be accessed through the convenient shortcut /help.

Forming a Relationship

Mentor and mentee conversation with status notifications

The mentor and mentee conversation is kept separate from the one with Unibot, but from time to time bot will chime in with any big progress the mentee has made in the school application and moving process.

Info Bank

Getting the trusted information needed to get through the process

In the infobank the prospective student finds helpful tips on important parts of the process, from exploring new schools to preparing for the move. Each topic is divided into submenus and the information is all original source.

Concept Video

About Us

Nalena Santiago

Interaction Design Lead

Nalena believes we have the power to impact others’ lives in a meaningful manner through technology and design. Before graduate school she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay.

Jennifer Barannoff

Creative Lead

Jennifer is interested in technologies that empower individuals and communities. She’s worked in a number of contexts, including digital agencies, NGO’s, non-profits, and the federal government.

Katie Ramp

Project Manager

Katie maintains a passion for efficiency and hopes to channel that energy into making innovative products that will improve people’s lives. Her career began as an industrial engineer researcher.

Juan Corzo

Technical Lead

Juan has a passion for impactful technologies. His interests include computer science, business and UX design. Prior to MHCI he worked for a telecom company and started a software development company.