Carnegie Mellon University
July 01, 2020

Hacking for a Cause: INI students and alumni excel in Delphi COVIDcast Hackathon

On June 26-28, 2020, the Information Networking Institute (INI) teamed up with Delphi Research Group to host the COVIDcast Hackathon for INI students and alumni. The event focused on speed optimizations, coverage and configurability. 

Data can be a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. At Carnegie Mellon University, Delphi Research Group is leading pandemic forecasting efforts with its team of experts in machine learning, statistics and data science. By working with popular websites to run symptoms and behavior surveys, the researchers are able to collect, analyze and create data sources that display real-time information on symptoms, doctor visits, medical tests and browser searches related to COVID-19 in the United States, including estimated disease activity at the county level.

On June 26-28, 2020, Delphi teamed up with the Information Networking Institute (INI) to host the COVIDcast Hackathon, where INI students and alumni were invited to compete on speed optimizations, coverage and configurability in order to help Delphi continue to develop their prototype.

"Our hackathon participants helped increase Delphi's coverage over the available survey questions, sped up the processing pipeline and gave us some great ideas for increasing the accessibility of our codebase," said Katie Mazaitis, Delphi senior research programmer and event organizer.

She explained that increased coverage is important to ensure the survey data is in a format that can be analyzed, while speedups are key to reduce the amount of time to process each day's survey responses and update the interactive maps. Lastly, more accessible code enables Delphi to expand their system to a wider audience, with the goal of launching it as an open-source project in the near future.

"This hackathon was inspiring because we had INI alumni working with current and newly admitted students, all coding together on a great cause," said Aleecia M. McDonald, INI assistant professor of the practice. "The INI family stretches back over 30 years, and we still come together to use our time and talent for public good."

Thank you to all our competitors! 

These INI students and alumni were recognized for excellent performance, determination and creativity:

  • Xinna Guo

  • Jason Lee

  • Vidya Kalaiazhagan

  • Paddy Krishnamoorthy

  • Aanand Nayyar

  • Thomas Nguyen

  • Palash Oswal

  • Vikramraj Sitpal

  • Madhu VP

"The INI family stretches back over 30 years, and we still come together to use our time and talent for public good."