Helix Cup Challenge

  • Client: Genentech
  • Platform: Web
  • Services: Design, Development

Using technology to make science education more engaging for middle school students.

Strengthening ties between its employees and South San Francisco middle schools was a key strategic goal for Genentech. Their mission: help teachers make science education more compelling and inspiring for their students through competition and community engagement. The resulting Futurelab initiative encompasses programs reaching students from elementary to high school, including the Helix Cup Challenge for middle schoolers.


Initial user research resulted in a product strategy that would create an engaging, first-of-its-kind learning experience for SSF teachers and their students. The idea: create a central web-based platform that delivers custom-created curriculum, unites Genentech coaches and participants, allows submission and tracking of results, and could later function as a competition collaboration space.

Alongside these features came the creation of an energetic and engaging visual brand and user interface that employed delightful interactions, and used motion & digital illustration to create a related, yet distinctly fresh sub-brand to the Genentech corporate identity.

“Futurelab will help better equip teachers in our local community to nurture scientific curiosity in kids at every grade level.”
‐ Ian T. Clark, Genentech

Since going live in January 2015, the Helix Cup Challenge platform has given local teachers and Genentech employees alike access to a science curriculum and lively competition, scoring, and leaderboard framework unlike anything they’ve previously had access to.

For local schools, Helix Cup is an enormous step towards getting kids more engaged in science; for Genentech, it is a chance to invest in the company’s birthplace. For employees it is an opportunity to improve the district where many of their own children attend school. It also give them the pride of working for an organization that is as bold in its investment towards community improvement as its commitment to medical innovation.

160 South SF student teams
~9,300 South SF Futurelab students