Lassonde students finalists in NASA SpaceApps global hackathon for developing COVID-19 solution

A team of five Lassonde School of Engineering students was selected as one of 40 finalists in the global hackathon SpaceApps, run by NASA, and was chosen for its work in developing a COVID-19 Preparedness Index Calculator to limit fatalities and mitigate economic fallout.

Out of the 40 teams, the Lassonde team went on to become one of eight honourable mention winners, placing in the top 14 of the 2,000 participating teams.

The hackathon was organized by various space agencies including the CSA, ESA, JAXA and CNES and saw a total of 2,000 teams and 15,000 participants take part in challenges such as an “Integrated Assessment” which asked teams to understand the impacts of COVID-19 by integrating satellite earth-observation data and socio-economic data.

The Event Horizon team

The Lassonde Team, aptly named The Event Horizon – in keeping with the space theme – used various political, economic and societal factors from 21 selected countries to determine a ‘golden standard’ for handling the pandemic to help limit cases and deaths while also keeping the economy strong. The COVID-19 Preparedness Index Calculator and website they developed evaluated each country’s corresponding dataset (from air pollution, to stock market, to governmental trust and approval ratings) in order to determine this standard.

The team had to consider a variety of factors when developing this proposed standard including carbon monoxide emissions, stock market data, political leadership and approval rating and method of control.

The team members that took part in the hackathon are:

  • Sogand Talebi, first-year master’s student, Earth & Atmospheric Science
  • Adrian Fagarasanu, third-year undergraduate student, Computer Science
  • Dennis Nevelev, second-year undergraduate student, Computer Science
  • Megan Gran, third-year undergraduate student, Space Engineering
  • Ibrahim Yusuf, third-year undergraduate student, Electrical Engineering

“During this pandemic it is easy to feel powerless at times. This hackathon provided us with the opportunity to spend a couple of days researching and working on a solution to help countries during pandemics,” said Talebi.

When asked how they were able to work together so successfully in this new, socially distant world Nevelev said, “It was important to keep it lighthearted and fun. We made sure to work to the best of our abilities, enjoy the moment and not let any of the stress get to us.”