FIU Business Now Magazine
FIU COVID-19 Datathon Offers Solutions to Repopulating FIU's Campus

An AI-powered wearable device, a plan to supply personal protection equipment and a solution to optimize class scheduling took the top prizes in the FIU ATOM COVID-19 Datathon, held via Zoom from July 24 to August 2.

The competition, hosted by the FIU Business ATOM Think Tank to develop technology-driven solutions for repopulating the campus, attracted 51 students from throughout FIU. A total of 15 interdisciplinary teams, all connected virtually, were tasked with developing a solution to enhance the "new normal" for students, faculty and staff.

"We wanted to harness the best minds from FIU to see what ideas and innovations they could come up with in the course of a week," said Karlene Cousins, chair of the information systems and business analytics department and founder of the ATOM Think Tank.

Judges included representatives of corporate sponsors Assurant, Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits and wiSource, along with other members of the business community and FIU faculty.

The winning formula: an AI-powered wearable device.

First-place winner Anil Thota worked with Maojun Zhao to present "COVIDDefender – Machine Vision AI Powered Wearable Device for Maintaining Social Distancing and Contact Tracing." The device not only alerts those who violate social distancing rules but also saves information about who is nearby in case someone – including the wearer – later tests positive.

"People are working hard to get FIU repopulated safely, and this device could help us do that," Thota said. "Without the Datathon and the mentors who helped me and who motivated me, I would not have been able to pitch this idea."

"We wanted to harness the best minds from FIU to see what ideas and innovations they could come up with in the course of a week."

Karlene Cousins, Chair, Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics

Pablo Valle (BBA '16), a graduate student in FIU's School of Computing and Information Sciences, took second place for his entry, "Personal Protective Equipment." He was inspired throughout the process by his mentors, whom he had collaborated with as members of the Association for Information Systems (AIS).

Using his background in analytics, "I wanted to do a dashboard that would be a one-stop shop for what could be provided to the university – including pricing and a COVID-19 dashboard tracking inventory and suppliers," he said. The big challenge, he said, was finding the datasets that he needed for what he wanted to do. He credits a combination of many hours of research, assistance from FIU Business faculty member Nicole Wishart, and help from his mentors working in the industry with his success.

Maria Paula Diaz, an FIU Business senior majoring in finance and business analytics, finished third with teammates Cristhofer Lugo and Namitha Patil. The team worked on "Optimizing Class Scheduling," creating an app that begins with a questionnaire and generates an optimized class schedule to minimize student time on campus.

Diaz dialed in from Bogotá, while Lugo battled power and internet outages from Isaias-ravaged Turks and Caicos.

"At this point, we are all used to working remotely," Diaz said. "But it was weird because we didn't have time to really get to know each other. As we worked, we started seeing each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we communicated a lot. But I sure would've loved to meet them in person!"

Although the week was stressful, Diaz is glad she persevered, and she most appreciates the real-world experience, one she believes prepares her for life after graduation.