Creativity is born out of challenge and disruption spurs innovation.

With the TECH Together Campaign, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Seed Fund has initiated a campus-wide competition open to Virginia Tech students, seeking proposals for creative, innovative, and integrated solutions for a safe reopening of Virginia Tech campuses this fall.

The competition was proposed by two faculty members, Ron Fricker, professor of statistics and an associate dean in the College of Science, and Laura Hungerford, professor and head of the Department of Population Health Sciences, who are co-leading a university-level coronavirus surveillance and modeling effort. 

“Virginia Tech students and faculty are exceptionally talented. The goal of this competition is to bring all of that talent to bear on the challenge of best preparing for the fall semester,” said Fricker.

“Throughout our Virginia Tech community, people have been thinking about ways their ideas could help control COVID-19,” said Hungerford. “This competition gives a place to share and invest in innovative ideas to keep the campuses and our surrounding communities safe. This is transformative Ut Prosim in action.” 

The competition will be held in three phases. For the first phase, a one-page proposal is due Monday, July 20. From these submissions, up to 20 teams will be awarded $500 to prepare for phase two. From that phase, 10 selected teams will be awarded another $1,000 to assist with strategy or prototype development in the final phase, where the five winning proposals, one in each area, will be announced on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Each will receive a grand prize of $4,000 to go toward implementation.

Student proposals for creative and innovative ideas in five key areas will be evaluated:

Area 1 – Stop It: Minimizing Spread Across Campuses and Surrounding Communities

  • Students will propose novel solutions to minimize COVID-19 spread among the university population and surrounding communities.

Area 2 – Protect Us: Ut Prosim and Protecting Our Communities 

  • Students will design programs that extend the spirit of Ut Prosim to guard and protect the most vulnerable members of our on- and off-campus community from the virus. 

Area 3 – Track It: Supporting and Facilitating Extensive Contact Tracing

  • Students will develop ideas, methods, and techniques to help make contact identification more efficient, allowing contact tracers to do their jobs more quickly and effectively.

Area 4 – Find It: Understanding the Extent of COVID-19 at Virginia Tech

  • Students will generate novel surveillance ideas to help Virginia Tech more successfully detect the presence of the virus and/or COVID-19 cases, both on and off campus.

Area 5 – Stop It: Optimizing Virginia Tech Facilities

  • Students will design social, technical, and/or programmatic solutions for operating facilities where students gather on campus to help limit the spread of COVID-19.  

The competition is sponsored and supported by the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment; the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences; the Fralin Life Sciences Institute; and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology.

For more information about the competition, please visit the webpage.

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