Last spring, Nick was accepted and plunged into TechPoint’s Summer Opportunities for Students (S.O.S.) Challenge, an intense five-week-long project. In this program, teams are given a topic or “challenge question” related to COVID-19, and they must prepare a product and a go-to-market plan in response. He explains, “There are nine challenge questions, and each one has a certain number of teams. My question is COVID-19 outbreak detection. The idea is to develop a solution to address how to identify where COVID is going to show up next and, if possible, to mitigate it.”
Students who complete the program are given $500 and each winning team receives $2,500 and the chance to give a virtual presentation of their project to Governor Eric Holcomb and leaders in Indiana’s technology sector.
The catch? For their safety, they’ll never meet in person.
All teams are divided into two squads: “There’s the so-called ‘Go’ squad who identifies the potential customer or customer profiles and also comes up with a business marketing plan. And then there’s also the ‘Pro’ squad who actually builds the product, website, app, whatever they decide and takes care of all the technical aspects.”
Each squad on a team has its own coach, who is either a business owner or volunteer with real-world experience in the Indiana tech community. “The coaches are professionals in industry,” Nick says. “Someone we can rely on for expertise, to guide us. They give us all kinds of little tips of things to consider or tips about what we should focus on next given the timeframe and things like that.”
Nick’s team worked on their own website called IndySARS. Modeled on Yelp and similar review sites, IndySARS rates businesses on several dimensions of COVID-19 safety and sanitation.
“The ratings assess whether hand sanitizer was available, whether the places were clean and disinfected, whether employees were wearing masks, an estimate of what percentage of customers were wearing masks, and how easy it was to socially distance from others,” he says.