A Temple University graduate student recently took one of five winning slots in a global hackathon searching for technology solutions during the coronavirus pandemic.
Maya Shenoy, who’s currently earning her master’s degree in public health, worked with six others across the country and world to develop Voice Over Virus, a social media campaign and resource center meant to connect people dealing with the realities of COVID-19.
The competition, called the Pandemic Response Hackathon and put on by San Francisco-based healthcare data company Datavant, was sourcing for projects that fit into four categories — public health, epidemiology, societal impact and healthcare workers. Shenoy and her team members connected on the company’s Slack with similar ideas, and over the last weekend of March, built voiceovervirus.org.
The team is made up of folks with public health knowledge like Shenoy, as well as some more tech-focused members who constructed the website in less than two days, she said.
“During this time, we can’t talk in person,” Shenoy said. “But I found that being able to share your experience while we’re all in the same situation, about [how] COVID is somehow affecting us, would be helpful.”
The social media campaign uses #VoiceOverVirus to connect folks’ experiences, and the Twitter API on the site’s “stories” page is a catalogue from people around the world sharing their experiences.
This looks like a space suit, hats off to our medical community! #voiceovervirus #COVID19 https://t.co/NPvXgQksbD
— Anup Mahansaria (@ahamanup) March 29, 2020
Shenoy’s team was one of five projects highlighted in the social impact section of the competition, and one of five winning projects selected during the hackathon’s closing ceremonies. More than 230 teams participated around the world.
Many of the projects, Shenoy said, used maps and data to track the virus — like another team that took a Pokemon Go-inspired approach to assist with social distancing. That project is one that Shenoy said her and her team would like to incorporate into the site on the resources page, which will soon be update with hotline information and a YouTube series interviewing people about their coronavirus experience. The team is also working on updating APIs to Facebook and Instagram to connect the #VoiceOverVirus stories on a wider scale.
“All these experiences are different, but we can share them and network and kind of talk about how it made us feel,” Shenoy said.
One of the main hopes for the project is to connect survivors of COVID-19 to both make them feel less alone during the pandemic, and for the health community learn more about the virus.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know,” Shenoy said. “It’s up to a lot of us to kind of help and figure this out and give us an idea of what future pandemics could be like.”
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