While scientists search for a vaccine and a treatment to combat Covid-19 and government officials work to determine next steps to reopen the economy, Stevens Institute of Technology's entrepreneur-in-residence Premal Kamdar is looking for innovative solutions to help people safely return to the new normal.

The Stevens Venture Center, Stevens Institute of Technology's tech incubator, in Hoboken, New Jersey, completed the first phase of its virtual two-part Covid-19 Health Hackathon Series on April 20. Hack I, led by Kamdar, a digital health innovator and founder of the university's annual industry-sponsored HealthTech Hackathons, addressed several pandemic-related issues including drug discovery, modular hospital units, and PPE supply-chain tracking tools. Hack II, set to launch in May, will focus on how to reopen our economy by building solutions to help people safely get back to their daily life.

Hack I had global participation ranging from students to industry professionals across science, medicine, engineering, and business. Winners were determined by a prestigious group of judges with impressive backgrounds in pharmaceuticals, digital health, startups, academia, and technology. One of the winning teams was FitMask Crusaders, which designed a custom-made mask frame that conforms to the contours of the individual wearer's face and creates a tight, but comfortable, seal--improving wearability and efficacy. 

FitMask determined that many users of commercially available masks find them uncomfortable. In some instances, the elastic is tied too tightly, resulting in trauma to the user's face; in other cases, the mask is too loose, causing discomfort and potential leakage of viral particles. FitMask's design solves both those issues with a tight, yet comfortable, custom fit because the user's face is scanned using a smartphone app to create the mask frame model, which is then sent to a 3-D printer. Future prototypes will include masks that have an attachable, wash-friendly fabric; are strapless; and are clear for the hearing impaired to read lips. The team is currently in conversations with a 3-D-face-scanning company to continue its build out at a cost-effective price point per unit. 

Stevens Institute of Technology, a premier tech-focused institution in the Northeast, is one of the few universities at the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic to host such a Covid-19 virtual hackathon. In addition to Stevens students and staff, participants came from over 40 organizations, including Columbia University, University of Chicago, University of California-Berkeley, Johnson & Johnson, RBC Capital Markets, and Becton Dickinson, among others. 

Kamdar hopes Hack II, scheduled for May 15, will include even more participation, within both the U.S. and internationally. Hack II will focus on finding solutions to optimize working from home; improving virtual experiences and telemedicine; monitoring and regulating crowded places, such as trains, buses, parks, and malls; and monitoring and preventing the virus from spreading by using contact tracing, city surveillance, and wearable devices for symptom tracking, and more.

Hoboken mayor Ravi S. Bhalla says, "I'm extremely grateful for Stevens's assistance here in Hoboken, from volunteer efforts, providing housing for first responders, and more. It's clear that the region's response to Covid will require a modern, 21st-century relief effort that incorporates modern technology and I'm proud Stevens is leading this effort. Congratulations to President Farvardin and the students for this successful endeavor."

"I am immensely proud," said Nariman Farvardin, Stevens Institute of Technology president, "of the work the Stevens community has undertaken to address the evolving challenges of this crisis and, in particular, the spirit of innovation exhibited by students and alumni working collaboratively on the Covid-19 HealthHack II with the Stevens Venture Center. Our recovery from the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus will depend on the types of innovative, technological solutions for which Stevens' students and researchers are so well known."

"The most challenging times demand the most innovative solutions," said Kamdar, who organized this hackathon with Stevens's students Justin Trugman, Hayden Daly, Frank Pinnola, and Maor Mashiach. These entrepreneurial, computer science-oriented students have all run or participated in past hackathons and look forward to expanding the scope of Hack II. 

Note: The second phase of the Covid-19 Health Hackathon is seeking corporate and institutional sponsors to serve as branding partners, sponsor prizes, help create teams, mentor participants--and help produce winning products. "Hack II strives to be a larger and even more impactful effort. With additional funding and partners, the world could see life-altering solutions implemented," says Kamdar. "We want to collaborate with organizations to help everyone safely return to the new normal." To learn more about the Stevens Venture Center's Covid-19 Health Hackathon and how you can become a sponsor, visit www.covidhealthhack.com.