ESTEEM Students participate in Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Design Challenge

Author: Caitlyn Ward and Lillian Piz

To make an impact and harvest the collective power of many brilliant minds, Johns Hopkins University sponsored a recent design challenge to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. ESTEEM students showed representation on 5 different teams, solving issues in one of three categories; Increasing Awareness, Preventing Transmission or Designing Supplies. The challenge is a 5 day virtual design hackathon; of the 515 teams and 2331 participants who applied, Johns Hopkins accepted 235 teams with 1310 total participants in the challenge. About 75% of those who were accepted were from the United States. The challenge was sponsored by the JHU Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design. The winning team will be given the tools to implement their idea.

“I was feeling pretty helpless amidst this pandemic where all we can do is stay home and think about the catastrophic fallout of such a crisis,” said ESTEEMer Allison Berding. “My time in ESTEEM gave me the confidence and process execution that I needed to approach such a large problem. As a team we were able to break down and dissect the many problems that were presented, and choose an issue we were passionate about...The design thinking exercises we have done were extremely relevant, along with the many lectures on knowing that we are solving a real problem.”

Julia Heseltine adds,  “my passion resides in healthcare technology solutions, so this competition felt like a no brainer to compete in! It was actually insane how much aligned with our ESTEEM curriculum. I would pop into a lecture taught by Johns Hopkins about ideation, prototyping, design, launch strategy and some of the same slides were exactly like what we have seen in class. I had no problem applying my skills I had learned in ESTEEM and using them in the competition and using the skills as a leverage to push my team’s potential.”

“The first two days we spent attending live lectures and Q&A sessions held by medical and public health experts from Johns Hopkins and other institutions to learn more about the ongoing crisis,” said Lilly Piz. “I really applaud the JHU CBID team for their organization - the virtual office hours with experts, presentation rooms, and opening and closing ceremonies were all run seamlessly.”

The team of  Ryan Bliss, Nam Borah, Farai Musariri, Lilly Piz, Tsion Sadore, and Harvard student Simo Nkomboni submitted the following solution: 

Abstract: Medical staff capacity is strained by the COVID-19 crisis. To supplement pre-existing resources, our solution is a free video consultation and Q&A platform which utilizes the talent of unmatched international doctors who have yet to join the US healthcare workforce as well as US certified retired doctors who aren’t currently practicing. 

ESTEEM student Sam Pasmann, with Lea Karabegovi, Nick Nelson and Emett Santucci looked at how supplies could be more effectively distributed:

Abstract: Distribution of hospital resources is complex and highly fragmented. Additional supplies are most often requested on-demand. This, in combination with very high demand of ventilators across the US, requires a real-time hazard vulnerability analysis (HVA) for the distribution of resources on a per hospital basis.

The team of Niamh Collins, Grace Edgarton, Sam Gray, Conor Lynch and Fiona McDonnell and focused on a solution involving public action:

Abstract: Using specific materials, DIY masks have been shown to be 78% as effective as surgical masks in preventing the spread of infectious diseases from one person to another. Our aim is to educate non-healthcare workers globally on how to make DIY masks and preserve supplies of surgical masks.

The team of Allison Berding, Travis Hotchkiss, Jeff Riney, Anthony Plochocki,  Audrey Shannon, and Nick Wilt focused on the mental health aspects of the outbreak:

Abstract: The COVID-19 outbreak has caused loneliness and limited access to essential supplies for the elderly population. To combat this, we created a website to connect the elderly community by utilizing existing service organizations to provide the high-risk elderly population with physical and psychological support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team of Julia Heseltine, Melissa Serrano, Risa Takenaka, along with Providence College student Yuri Takenaka, George Washington University student Jake Whitney and Notre Dame Global Affairs & Social Entrepreneurship student Abeera Akhtar invented a platform called Covid Care Connect. 

Need: Efficiently streamline the sourcing and deployment of qualified health care professionals (HCPs) and match them to nearby hospitals in need?   

Solution: Platform to connect and deploy available and trained HCPs to local healthcare facilities in need of extra staffing due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

For more info about the competition, please visit: