Emory and Georgia Tech students join forces to ‘Hack COVID-19’

Emory Report | Feb. 10, 2021

Top prize in the 2021 HACK COVID-19 hackathon competition went to Rotations, a digital platform to allow schools and businesses to quickly create safe seating charts and schedules to minimize exposure to COVID-19.

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During a January weekend, 130 Emory University and Georgia Tech students on 29 teams competed in the HACK COVID-19 hackathon to develop products that help schools and businesses safely reopen in light of the pandemic.

The hackathon competition is a partnership between Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) and Georgia Tech. Top prize went to Rotations, a digital platform to allow schools and businesses to quickly create safe seating charts and schedules to minimize exposure to COVID-19.

As the winning team, Rotations received a $3,500 cash prize and enrollment in the CREATE-X Startup Launch program, Georgia Tech’s accelerator that helps students turn project ideas into startups. A total of $21,000 was awarded to the top teams. 

“Our hackathon model that partners Emory University with Georgia Tech demonstrates the power of bringing together great thinkers from across disciplines and universities to tackle real-world problems,” says Keriann Roy, EGHI’s operations and evaluation manager, who led the hackathon. “As a result of this hackathon, innovative and practical solutions were created for schools and businesses to operate safely during COVID-19.” 

“Innovative solutions like Rotations help solve real considerations around seating and scheduling to maximize use of our facilities while reducing risk of exposure,” notes Lindsey Jalil, managing director operations and COVID-19 testing for Delta Air Lines and a hackathon judge. “Delta’s number one priority is safety. Our operations never stopped during the pandemic, and the health and safety of our customers and employees is being protected through several measures.” 

The hackathon was created in 2020 by EGHI in partnership with CREATE-X and the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Emory University and Georgia Tech to encourage multidisciplinary student teams from both universities to address the pandemic. Last year’s winning team designed a web platform to feed COVID-19 testing results from pop-up facilities into hospital and provider databases. 

“Our hackathons with Emory allow students from both schools to engage, develop ideas and create solutions that can later be commercialized through a startup incubator like CREATE-X,” says Raghupathy “Siva” Sivakumar, founding director of CREATE-X and interim chief commercialization officer at Georgia Tech. “Most importantly, these students want to contribute to helping solve what’s arguably the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in our students helps them believe that they too can contribute to finding solutions to complex problems, even ones as difficult as COVID-19.” 

To review the idea pitches, 45 judges were selected based on their expertise in public health, business, technology and operations. The finalist judges who reviewed the top 10 projects were Stephen Chininis, professor of practice at the School of Industrial Design, Georgia Tech; Amir St. Clair, Emory’s associate vice president and executive director of COVID-19 response and recovery; Lindsey Jalil, Delta Air Lines managing director of operations and COVID-19 testing; John Avery, director of Advanced Technology Development Center; and Jodie Guest, vice chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

Additional winners of the 2021 HACK COVID-19 competition included:

  • 2nd place: COVERED, a portable wallet that stores and keeps masks sanitary
  • 3rd place: nonose, a new face mask designed to increase comfort and prevent misuse 

Seven teams received honorable mentions for their solutions. Descriptions of their projects and their video presentations are available here.


About Emory Global Health Institute

Founded in 2006 with a mission of advancing Emory University’s efforts to improve health around the world, the Emory Global Health Institute (EGHI) has supported Emory faculty and student global health projects in close to 100 countries. The EGHI also leads externally funded programs designed to improve the health of the world’s most vulnerable populations. For more information about EGHI, visit globalhealth.emory.edu. 

About CREATE-X

CREATE-X is a faculty-led, student-focused initiative to instill entrepreneurial confidence in Georgia Tech’s students. The broader goal of CREATE-X is to provide the knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences that will give Georgia Tech graduates the confidence to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities and create their own future. Learn more at create-x.gatech.edu.