The Insta-Message project team with Hearth Seattle’s founder, Robert Snow

Insta-Message Project (Nexus UW, Colourhood, Hearth Seattle)

Today, I am happy to announce Nexus UW’s inaugural project. The mission of Nexus UW, a University of Washington club, is to help those in society that cannot afford to develop software by connecting them with students eager to apply their skills they learned in the classroom.

Project Description

The goal of the Insta-Message project’s is to build a mobile messaging framework and mobile application to help Hearth Seattle, a nonprofit organization that helps displaced Seattleites, by assisting them and social workers with the referral process. A team of nine students and two experienced professionals with varying but typical roles you would see in a software development team will develop the project over the UW Spring academic quarter (~10 weeks).

Why is this important

The founder of Hearth Seattle, Robert Snow, an experienced and passionate social worker uses an example he experienced to explain the project’s importance. The past Sunday he was notified that a sex worker in Seattle needed a safe place for the night and didn’t want to call the authorities because she did not want to get involved with the authorities, which is common in social work. Mr. Snow ended up giving her a referral to a shelter via a phone call. This may seem like a simple and flawless process, but as many social workers will tell you there are many problems with this process. The main three problems are:

  1. This will happen again in the future — Mr. Snow explained that most of his job as a social worker is related to this referral process. He finds that the same people come back to him with the same questions because they forgot or lost the information they need to use the resources he provided. The mobile application will give those in need a documented history of questions and answers.
  2. The communication method is far from perfect for those in need — So, why not use Facebook messenger or one the other thousand messenger apps? One of the main reasons is from Mr. Snow’s experience many of the people he helps have a distrust for these applications. An advantage of this application is it will give users quick and direct access to social workers who know immediately why they are contacting them.
  3. The communication method is far from perfect for social workers — This is the main reason for not using apps like Facebook messenger because many messaging applications are linked to social network accounts. Mr. Snow and many other social workers do not want to mix their personal and work lives. So, a separate application will allow social workers to clearly draw this line.

The main problem this project is solving is the social worker’s referral process. It is incredibly important as many shelters require a referral. Therefore, a strong, secure, and confidential communication method makes giving out a referral much easier. The majority of the community that will use the messaging application do in fact have smartphones. This means the application will be accessible to all as the only requirement is an internet connected device. The application will give those in need a central place where they can reach out to social workers and quickly find the resources they need to make their lives a little easier.

The Team

Project Managers

Leading the Insta-Message project as the project managers are Andrei Villasana, the founder of Colourhood, and Katherine Li. Both are experienced Software Engineers and will oversee the development and design of the Insta-Message project.

Project Managers: Andrei Villasana (left) and Katherine Li (right)


The development team range from Sophomores to Seniors that major in computer science, informatics, or economics. This team of five students will be responsible for developing the iOS application with Swift, Android application with Kotlin, and Backend with NodeJS.

Developers: Quan Tran, Frank Zhu, Jong Ho Lee, Jacob Lu, Richard Jiang (top left to bottom right)


The design team consists of four designers that also range in class standing with diverse backgrounds from the Human Centered Design & Engineering to Landscape Architecture departments at the University of Washington. They will be responsible for sketching, wire-framing, and much more to develop an incredible user interface and experience.

Designers: Inhae Kim, Rachel Ren, Jae Jung Park, Monica Posluszny (left to right)


Nexus UW is happy to have such a talented team of project managers, developers, and designers working on the Insta-Message project. More updates will follow!

If you’re interested in working on projects like this in the future, we at Nexus UW host at least one project like this for a Seattle non-profit per academic quarter. Like us on Facebook to get updates and reach out at to learn more!



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