A key public health measure during the Covid-19 pandemic has been social distancing — keeping at least 6 feet of distance between people to minimize spread of the coronavirus.
A team of students from the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering wants to make that easier for people to practice as they return to working in-person. The team’s idea was one of the best to emerge from the Emory and Georgia Tech HACK Covid-19 competition in late January.
Team GoodVibes developed a bracelet to reinforce proper distancing — or prompt users with other customizable reminders. Their idea won an honorable mention from the hackathon’s judges.
“We wanted to design an affordable, accessible, and practical device that helped employees transition safely to an in-person setting,” said team member and third-year BME student Rebecca Jeltuhin. “We chose to create a bracelet due to its simple and subtle nature, along with the possibility of quickly bringing it to market.”
The bracelet would work in conjunction with others — any time a wearer encounters another user within a 6-foot radius, it would vibrate to remind both individuals to increase the space between them. Jeltuhin said they also want to build in the ability to gently prompt others — to help avoid the uncomfortable situation of having to ask someone to move farther away.
“The bracelet has a manual override button. When pressed, it will activate the vibration feature for everyone in a 6-foot radius in case someone is not following social distancing protocol,” said Mai Nguyen, another member of the team and also a third-year biomedical engineering student. “This subtly reminds people to maintain proper distancing without calling them out.”
The team envisions including a dial to adjust the distance for alerts even closer than 6 feet, if a user wished. They’ve also discussed adding a long-press function to the button that businesses could customize, using it to send vibration patterns as reminders to put on a mask or sanitize hands, for example.
The GoodVibes team included fourth-year biomedical engineering student Varun Mosur and third-year students Jeltuhin, Nguyen, Matthew Nuese, and Anna Williams, who’ve worked together since their sophomore design class. They also recruited Emeline Ruvinskiy, a fourth-year undergraduate in the Goizueta Business School at Emory, to bring her business skills to the table.
The hackathon was a collaboration of the Emory Global Health Institute, CREATE-X at Georgia Tech, and Coulter BME. 130 students on 29 teams competed to develop products to help schools and businesses safely reopen. Top prize went to Team Rotations, a digital platform to allow schools and businesses to quickly create safe seating charts and schedules to minimize exposure to Covid-19.
“Our hackathons with Emory allow students from both schools to engage, develop ideas and create solutions that can later be commercialized through a startup incubator like CREATE-X,” said Raghupathy “Siva” Sivakumar, founding director of CREATE-X and interim chief commercialization officer at Georgia Tech. “Most importantly, these students want to contribute to helping solve what’s arguably the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime. Fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in our students helps them believe that they, too, can contribute to finding solutions to complex problems, even ones as difficult as Covid-19.”
The GoodVibes team hopes to refine their idea, looking even beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Ruvinskiy said they’d like to apply to CREATE-X to continue the design process and make their idea a reality.
“The current pandemic requires quick action, which is why entrepreneurs are so critical to helping solve the issues produced by Covid,” Nuese said. “During the hackathon, each one of our teammates had the chance to feel this entrepreneurial spirit within them, and we hope our GoodVibes will reverberate around the world.”