MIT community weighs in to address the pandemic

A community of students, faculty, staff and alumni from academia and science labs across the five schools of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA, have pooled resources to create the COVID-19 Rapid Innovation Dashboard, as MIT's entry point to urgent problem-solving to address the pandemic. It launched April 2 and grew out of the MIT Innovation Initiative.

"In early stages, MIT Innovation Initiative reached out to MIT's Innovation and Entrepreneurship community to ask about the various organizations' COVID-19 activities," said David Sweeney, director of communications at MIT.

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"They submitted projects from their students, faculty, and alumni," he added. "The site launched with five projects and now has over 60. We realized that there were projects of various natures-from community building efforts like advice on home schooling/distance learning, all the way to open source ventilator projects-and we wanted to include as many of those projects as possible to show MIT's action in support of the entire scope of the pandemic. We vet each project submitted through the site, with their leaders as much as possible. Fortunately, many of the organizations standing up projects are firmly-grounded at MIT."

On MIT's innovation page, COVID-19 News is among the aggregated topics, which also include:

"The MIT Covid19 Challenge is garnering a LOT of interest," Sweeney said. "Hundreds of registered participants are taking part in a series of challenges, starting with a hackathon," which began April 2.

COVID-19 News

COVID-19 News features summaries and links to coronavirus news stories and is updated as significant news is reported.

An example of link titles:

MIT COVID-19 challenges are called "Build a solution for the COVID-19 crisis." From Aug. 3 to 5 the website is holding an MIT project remote hackathon, "Beat the Pandemic," in which participants will develop solutions to "Protecting Vulnerable Populations & Supporting the Health System."

"At the initial launch, we knew from Google Analytics that the site had thousands of users from over 100 countries, but understanding which projects were being accessed was very difficult, we only had anecdotal information from participants and project leaders," Sweeney said. "That was one reason we moved to the new navigation. Going forward, we'll know how many users are interested in learning about MIT Research, MIT community-built projects, or MIT startups, etc."

The MIT Innovation Initiative, "a small team of unceasingly inquisitive data-obsessed MIT-ers who, under the direction of The Office of the Provost," are committed to build "an innovation infrastructure at MIT." The Initiative collaborates with the five schools at MIT "to strengthen the vibrant culture and programming of innovation and principled entrepreneurship," according to the website, which means the initiative's mission is to connect projects being done at the schools that will equip the MIT community and its partners to take strong and thoughtful ideas from conception to impact. The MIT Innovation Initiative is under the umbrella of the MIT Lab for Innovative Science & Policy. The upcoming "Beat the Pandemic" hackathon shoehorns into MIT's established arena of Innovation & Entrepreneurship.


Looking ahead, "We're already brainstorming on version 2.0." Sweeney said. "We want to make the Dashboard as useful as possible-guiding people quickly to the way that suits them best to get involved. MIT students are home, as are many faculty, staff, and alumni. We're not used to what can sometimes feel like being idle-we live MIT's mission of '...working wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind,' so providing a central point for activation is success for us. We're hearing from the MIT community, project leaders, and project leaders about what they'd like to see in the next version."

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