she256’s first designathon

Alexis Gauba
Published in
4 min readMay 28, 2019


she256 recently hosted our first ever designathon, where middle school and high school students came together to solve real design challenges in the crypto space.

Our goal here was to introduce individuals to crypto in an accessible way — to create a space where people of all backgrounds and skills could learn and contribute. Often traditional hackathons have a high barrier to entry in expecting attendees to know how to code. With the designathon, we not only wanted to break down this barrier, but also to help attendees build a toolkit to be able to tackle some of the most pressing problems in this industry. As Anna Carroll aptly put it at Recolor, “this space is pre product-market-fit.” To progress, we need to emphasize solving real problems that tackle user needs.

Students begin problem solving

Students (11–16 yo) began the day with no knowledge of blockchain or the design thinking process, and 12 hours later, came out with full Figma prototypes solving real problems in this space, and a desire to continue learning and building.

We presented attendees with the following prompt from IDEO CoLab:

Students then formed teams, getting to know each other through designing t-shirts, and participated in a Blockchain Fundamentals workshop by she256’s Elaine Kim and Nataliya Urakhchina, and an Introduction to Design Thinking from Jayson Hobby.

Each team conducted research on existing wallets, trying them out and noting down frictions, talked to users, built out wireframes, and tested them out. Students then presented their prototypes and explained technical hurdles to an audience of their peers and industry judges.


Here are some of the concepts they came up with:


TeenCrypt created a wallet enabling parent approval and teen approval for every transaction using multi-sigs. One of the best abstractions of multi-sigs we’ve ever seen!


Placeholder focused on security and authentication, adding 3FA after reading about cryptocurrency exchange hacks. They’re also thinking about what users want in cryptocurrency investments, and how to enable them to discover currencies.


BananaPay built around the concept of on-ramping into DAI and then spending DAI, both in a p2p manner, but also for marketplace purchases. Their target audience was younger teens, so they emphasized a friendly UI with bold colors.


LitCoin focused on older teenagers, enabling them to link their fiat and crypto finances together in one place, easily transact with friends, and see places near them that accept cryptocurrency.

We sent each of the winners DAI (pre-Coinbase offramp), at which point they continued to interact with crypto and started to understand some more of the limitations and challenges they could solve for.

Learnings, Takeaways, and the Future

These students were passionate, optimistic, and intelligent. They grasped concepts so quickly. At the end of the day, many of them were asking how to take their concepts from prototype to reality, and a number of students joined us at Recolor as scholars. Many of these students will be the future builders and leaders joining this space, so getting them engaged and exposed to this technology early on is crucial.

At she256, our thesis is that we fundamentally believe that blockchain technology will shape our future financial and governance structures, and as such it’s crucial that those building these systems are representative of the global, diverse population of which they are to serve. We believe that that anyone, no matter their age, skillset, or background has valuable perspectives to contribute, and that came through strongly working with these young students (11–16 yo) who quickly grasped complex concepts and came up with their own creative solutions to real problems in this space.

A huge thank you to eBay and MakerDAO for supporting the designathon and to Jayson Hobby for his workshop.

We had such an amazing time putting the designathon together. Look out for some exciting updates on where this goes next :)

she256 is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to increasing diversity and breaking down barriers to entry in the blockchain space.

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Alexis Gauba
Editor for

EECS @UCBerkeley • Research @CalBlockchain • Co-Founder @SHE_256 @Mechanism_Labs @opyn_