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Bioengineering student participates in COVID-19 Hackathon


Amartya Dave is a rising sophomore in the Department of Bioengineering. As a pre-med student and EMT who is interested in the intersection of technology and healthcare, Dave felt compelled into action in light of the coronavirus. 

Dave first heard about the UCSF COVID-19 Hackathon through BIOE 120, Introduction to Bioengineering taught by Professor Holly Golecki. This virtual event brought together 400 students, researchers, clinicians and developers from across the world over the course of three weeks to develop innovative solutions for the novel coronavirus. 

The hackathon invited participants to submit ideas prior to the event and recruit team members from the attendees. "There were ideas ranging from health tech to therapeutics and represented all aspects of health," said Dave. "I've never done a hackathon before but I wanted to give it a shot." Dave joined two teams over the course of the hackathon, BREATH and DocMe

The BREATH app project was led by Dr. Holly Martin, an associate professor and clinician-researcher from UCSF. "A lot of the resources and manpower is going towards caring for COVID-19 patients, but it doesn't mean that other conditions are not still happening," said Dave. "There is a large number of women giving birth at this time who may require intensive care. Due to personnel and resource scarcity, this patient population is susceptible to a lower quality of care not only in countries like the U.S. but also in countries with even fewer resources at hand." This app provides real-time guidance to healthcare providers as they resuscitate newborns using a resuscitation algorithm tailored to address complications, healthcare skill levels, and available equipment.  

BREATH was awarded $10,000 for patent and corporate work by Wilson Sonsini, a Silicon Valley law firm that represents technology pioneers and will receive a pitch session and mentorship from UCSF Space Health.  

Dave was the only undergraduate student on the BREATH project and was involved with the front-end development and business development teams. The team used Flutter to develop a cross-platform app that runs on Android, iOS, and works offline. The app also has the potential to offer 12 language options so it can be used around the world. 

Dave joined the team with some programming experience from using MATLAB in class and in his undergraduate research group. "On my own time, I watched video tutorials and did a lot of self-directed learning," he said. "Although I don't have advanced ability in coding and app development, this project gave me an opportunity to develop these skills and learn from so many people with varying experiences."

As part of the business development team, Dave learned about how to create a business plan, iterate on product design and prepare for the clinical trial process. 

In contrast to the BREATH team, the DocMe team was tasked to improve upon an existing product instead of building one from scratch. DocMe is a preventative app that uses edge-AI and computer vision to capture the user’s vital signs from his or her smartphone camera and provide remote diagnostics. 

Dave served as a  biomedical research analyst for DocMe and wrote resources on biotechnology and telemedicine. He was partnered with several medical school students from Cambridge University. "I did a lot of literature review and I was able to lead several white papers as the first author to better inform product developers who might not have a background in healthcare," he said. 

This was a large team of 40 participants, spread over 6 different time zones.  At the end of the event, the team was able to finalize the DocMe app and developed two strategic partnerships.

"My biggest takeaway from this hackathon was that I was able to gain skills in areas that I didn't even know I had the potential for," said Dave. "Trying new things is the main part of growing as a student and a person. I'm now even more encouraged to go out and seek new experiences."