Two Lawrenceville residents participated in a COVID-19 Hackathon in May comprised of Emory University and Georgia Tech students, where they pitched solutions to COVID-19 problems and won for their innovative product idea.
Brian Chea and David Strube, both Georgia Tech students, made up the team that created CovidHub, an app that integrates COVID-19 rapid testing results collected in facilities outside of hospitals with hospital electronic medical records.
Their team won $10,000 in cash and were part of a program at Georgia Tech this summer called CREATE-X Startup Launch, where they worked on turning their plans into an actual startup.
A total of nine teams presented their ideas to a group of judges from the tech, business and healthcare fields in the final round of the EGHI/GT HACK COVID-19 Hackathon, but only three were named winners.
The hackathon was a partnership between the Emory Global Health Institute, the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory, and Georgia Tech’s CREATE-X program. The Emory University School of Medicine funded the hackathon through its Imagine, Innovate, and Impact Award program.
The event began on May 8 when 508 students in 105 teams began working on solutions to COVID-19 problems in eight different tracks, which included an open category, transmission/PPE, social distancing, workplace impact, supply chain, healthcare delivery, testing and contact tracing.
“This hackathon was able to provide an outlet for students looking for ways to help control the pandemic,” said Keriann Roy, Emory Global Health Institute Operations and Evaluation Manager, who organized the hackathon. “Together, these teams had to determine how to communicate, plan and execute their projects from separate homes. Their work is incredibly impressive given that it was completed during this time of social distancing.”
Shirley Gao, a CovidHub team member who completed her dual Masters in Public Health and Masters in Business Administration degree at Emory this year, said she was working with a startup that offers COVID-19 antibody testing shortly before the hackathon, so her mind was already focused on all the issues around testing
“Throughout the hackathon, we spoke with doctors who validated a true need for CovidHub, which was our solution to integrate results from pop-up testing sites into legacy EMRs at hospitals,” she said.
Strube and Chea said they were not working on anything COVID-19 related prior to the event, but wanted to put their respective skills to good use.
Chea graduated from Georgia Tech in May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in computer science. Strube will be starting his master’s degree in computer science, specializing in machine learning, at Georgia Tech this fall.
“This is a weird time we’re living in,” Strube said. “It’s distressing that there is so much death and suffering with little certainty on how we’ll get through this or how much longer it’ll last. On the other hand, it’s great to see so many skilled and passionate individuals come together to work toward common goals using online tools to get things done remotely and efficiently. ... I’m glad to have been a part of my team’s progress so far, and I look forward to contributing to our further success and to helping the world get through these trying times."
Chea said his team hopes that by focusing on testing results, they will be able to relieve a lot of busywork from the overloaded medical staff so they can focus on more critical parts of their job.
“We got lucky with the array of skills the different team members brought together,” Colin Emerson, another CovidHub team member and student at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, said. “These Tech students are super impressive and smart, and it was really great to work with high caliber, hard-working people.”
Another winning team pitched an app called CAPACIT, which helps businesses manage new regulations required to open and operate under COVID-19 and helps consumers practice social distancing by alerting them to a store’s customer traffic in real time.
And the third winning team created an app called CareRing that helps family members and caregivers better communicate with and monitor the physical and mental health of elderly residents living in long-term care facilities.
A fourth team comprised of Georgia Tech students won a $5,000 honorable mention award and enrollment into the CREATE-X program for its COVID Cleaner tool, which uses computer vision algorithms to help businesses keep their facilities properly sanitized.
“Partnering with Georgia Tech on this hackathon was a great experience for the Emory Global Health Institute and for all of the Emory students who participated,” Vice President for Global Health at Emory Jeffrey Koplan said. “We were thrilled that so many students from both universities participated and impressed with the high-quality work they produced. While this was our first hackathon partnership with Georgia Tech, I hope it won’t be our last.”
Raghupathy “Siva” Sivakumar, Director and Co-founder of CREATE-X and Wayne J. Holman Chair in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech, said he is proud of all of the students who were able to participate in the virtual hackathon and developed ideas that could potentially make a real difference during the unprecedented pandemic.
“Partnering with Emory gave us an added edge to bring more students together and tackle the tough issues facing us today,” Sivakumar said. “We hope that CREATE-X will help these winning teams bring their products to market, creating viable solutions to fight COVID-19.”