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Nancy Zuo
Splash art by Maggie Pena 💖

A couple months ago, I drove a Tesla for the first time.

I was surprised to find driving it felt more like using a piece of technology than driving a car. Unlike a typical car with physical buttons and a dashboard in front of the wheel, Tesla’s screen replaces all buttons, switches, and dials. I thought the future was at my fingertips — finally a car redesign that seemingly incorporated all the complexities of the car interface into one screen.

However, I soon started realizing the tradeoffs that came with the switch from knobs and physical buttons to a touchscreen…

flappy bird trying to get over obstacles to get into college

Disclaimer: Everything in this article is based on personal experience, and in no way is representative of everyone’s experience growing up in the Bay. This is a self-reflection while trying to make sense of my past. I am aware that I am extremely privileged to have had the chance to have the resources I did, and am in no way saying my privilege led to a worse education than those who did not have these resources.

Growing up, I felt a sense of superiority coming from the all-year-round sunny Bay Area.

Like many of my peers, I looked down on…

“Reaching for the fruit of fulfillment”

As a student studying Human-Computer Interaction and immersed in the UX world, I spend my time advocating for humans when thinking about designing for technology. As design thinking has taken over my life, I began wondering— has the system we built for the world also put humans first? The more I thought about it, the more I started realizing that this system could also use some iteration.

Note: This article follows a case study structure in analyzing what we want as humans, and how society and the world we live in fulfills our needs.


Born as homo sapiens, our biological…

When applying to college, I got rejected from my dream program (USC Iovine and Young Academy). It really stung at the time, but I’ve since then found a similar path through a different program (Human-Computer Interaction) at CMU. While applying, I didn’t find many rejection stories so I wanted to share mine as a reminder that it will work out no matter where you go. ✈️

The summer prior to my senior year of high school, I went on a trip to visit schools in Southern California and stumbled across a program at USC called Iovine and Young Academy (or…

graphic of apple and oranges tug of war

In my experience speaking with hackathon veterans, I’ve heard the phrase “Good UI/UX wins hackathons” very often. However, a quick look around most hackathons, and you’ll find there are disproportionately fewer designers than developers.

Why is that? 🤷‍♀️

Joining hackathons as a designer is intimidating. When I first started attending hackathons last fall, it felt like a series of buzzwords constantly being thrown around. Complicated maps of these buzzwords connected together didn’t make it any less confusing (and in fact, they are still confusing to me). …

Fueled by the adrenaline rush from Treehacks 2021, my team (Table1) decided to tackle Tartanhacks, Carnegie Mellon’s annual hackathon hosted by ScottyLabs. This time, we created an augmented-reality geospatial social media platform to connect users to their local communities. We won the Scott Krulcik Grand Prize and “Best Throwback Hack,” and somehow qualified for Pinnacle for the second time among 52 submissions and 300+ hackers. This is our roller coaster🎢 of a journey —


I attended Treehacks mid-February and met my wonderful teammates Mitchell and Ryan through a mixing event one week prior to the event. …

This past weekend, I attended Treehacks, Stanford’s premier hackathon with 2,000+ attendees from across the world. It was held virtually this year through Ohyay! Our team created a gladiator cat-themed interactive virtual reality game that allows you to learn and improve your American Sign Language skills. We won the Moonshot Prize and qualified for Pinnacle’s first annual “Olympic of the Hackathons” out of 200+ submissions. Here’s our story —


Last year, I searched for hackathons that provided free travel because I was looking for excuses to escape the freezing Pittsburgh weather during the semester, and through a friend I learned…

Nancy Zuo

Hello 👋, I’m Nancy! Currently an Instructional Design Intern @ State Farm, Content @ Design Buddies, HCI @ CMU.

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