Published: 14th April 2020
These Indian students from SRIHER won the MIT COVID-19 Challenge with their ideas for a PPE suit and at-home testing
A total of 1500 participants from across 96 countries took part in the event. The 238 teams registered their unique ideas to tackle and manage the present crisis
Indian students are not only helping find solutions in the country during this health crisis but also contributing and acing discussions about COVID-19 prevention and cure on global platforms. Three Indian students — Aishwarya Chander, Aswathy Narasimhan and Jayanthi Anbalagan of the Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research, Chennai — have won the MIT COVID-19 Challenge — Beat the Pandemic, a virtual 48-hour challenge to find solutions to 10 basic issues that were presented to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by organisations involved in tackling the viral outbreak. The challenge was held from April 3-5.
While Aishwarya teamed up with students from across the USA to develop an integrated testing and predictive methodology for analysing COVID-19 immunity in the infected population, Aswathy and Jayanthi was part of the team that conceptualised a reusable and recyclable personal protective suit. "The topics which we worked on were submitted to MIT by various organisations which are battling the pandemic on the ground," said Aishwarya. "We spent the first day of the 48-hour challenge discussing ideas and teaming up. The seven-member team had students from Brown University, Cornell University, Harvard University, Oregon Health & Science University and Stanford University," added the fourth-year student of BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences. The students collaborated over class, Zoom chats and emails over the two days.
Aishwarya's batchmate, Aswathy and Jayanthi, a PhD Scholar at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Stem cell Research, teamed up to address the growing demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) globally due to COVID-19. India was in dire need of PPEs as reports of doctors not getting the proper protective gears made headline every day. "We have conceptualised a reusable and recyclable personal protective suit that is water-resistant and gives protection against other fluids as well. We used an organic polymer coating," said the students who also designed sterilisation chambers to facilitate recycling of PPEs. Their contributions will presumably reduce the cost of PPEs drastically.
Aishwarya's project was more about the people who recovered from COVID-19 or even to calculate herd immunity — where 80 per cent or more of the population affected by a virus develop a collective immunity and that section is no longer susceptible to the disease. "We worked on an at-home testing device to ensure that the workload on the healthcare professional is reduced. The microfluidic rapid-assay tests for COVID-19 immunity and acts as a data source for an adjunct platform that utilises the test results to identify areas that have established herd immunity," said Aishwarya.
A total of 1500 participants from across 96 countries took part in the event. The 238 teams who registered their unique ideas to tackle and manage the present crisis were mentored by 250+ experts and were evaluated by 40 judges, who carry affiliations to healthcare systems that were sponsoring the event. There were totally 10 tracks, each presenting a challenge that helps target two major concerns; Protecting vulnerable populations and Helping health systems. The top 4 best ideas from each track were selected and declared as winners of the event. The winners were also presented with prizes worth $500 and $200 from Amazon Web Services.