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PantherHacks focuses on solutions to issues caused by COVID-19

PantherHacks focuses on solutions to issues caused by COVID-19

August 26, 2020 at 10:00am

On the weekend of July 18-19, approximately 200 FIU students from the College of Engineering & Computing and beyond gathered online to participate in PantherHacks, a brand new hackathon focused on solving COVID-19 related problems.

Organized by the Office of the President and Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE), this virtual event featured talks, workshops, mentors, activities and prizes.

UPE is the largest technology organization at FIU. UPE hosts an annual fall semester hackathon, ShellHacks, the largest hackathon in the state of Florida. A hackathon is a weekend-long event where students come together to learn the latest technologies and build innovative projects. This year, President Mark B. Rosenberg and members of UPE met to discuss a summer hackathon, aimed at bringing people together and fighting the challenges faced by the community as a result of COVID-19. 

“The focus was to find real-world solutions to issues brought forth by this pandemic,” says Yasmine Abdrabo, co-director of PantherHacks alongside co-director Kevin Losada.

In teams of no more than four, students developed ideas that included delivery services for the homebound elderly, inventory-tracking apps for frontline workers and contact-tracing programs for FIU students and teachers.

At the start of the weekend-long event, students participated in a team-building exercise via Zoom that allowed students without groups to form their own – although some students still chose to work alone.

Projects addressed challenges in four categories: health, community, education and productivity. In addition to the project-development aspects, PantherHacks featured workshops on web development, design and project management, mobile development, and data analytics. Students learned things like graphic design, how to build a website from scratch, and how to pull and display data online. They also worked on pitching their projects.

“In the development world, projects have a lifecycle,” Abdrabo says. “Students learned how to navigate this cycle from start to finish.”

The team DataDogs won first place with a web application that identified high-risk professors on campus and aided with contact-tracing by displaying students’ zip codes and the number of cases in each zip code.

ABF won second place with a website that reported information on COVID-19 generated by testing sites, FAQs, statistics and job postings for those who are unemployed due to the virus.

The Adazas team won the health category by creating a mobile app for frontline workers to check inventory supplies at their hospitals and for inventory managers to update the stock amounts live. This allowed for frontline workers to stay updated on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) inventory numbers, which allowed them to better address shortages.

Other projects included HomBound, a mobile app that facilitated the delivery of groceries and other essentials to the elderly, sick and other at-risk groups, and printMD, a web application that directly connected health care workers with PPE manufacturers. The app helped to streamline the emergency request and fulfillment process related to PPEs.

PantherHacks was sponsored by Google Cloud and the FIU Student Government Association. Prizes included a scholarship from the Office of the President, a parking pass, a guaranteed study room during finals, and gadgets from both UPE and Google Cloud.

For those who missed out on PantherHacks, ShellHacks is right around the corner. Taking place Sept. 25-27, there will be more than 1,000 students from around the state and the world in attendance. Like PantherHacks, ShellHacks is now completely virtual.

“This will be another opportunity for students to come together and create innovative products to solve problems in our community. We’ve had more than 50 sponsors attend ShellHacks in previous years, including tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon and more,” Abdrabo says.