Vinayak Shastri: The MIT Covid 19 Challenge

Vinayak tells us about winning the MIT challenge, fighting COVID-19 and his experiences.

Tell us about your hackathon – who ran the event / how long did it last?

The MIT Covid 19 Challenge was an online hackathon event on May 29-31, 2020. This was a global event with 1800 selected participants with bright & diverse backgrounds, 200+ mentors, 70+ partners from 89 countries all coming together to provide creative solutions to shape the Post Covid-19 world. I am proud to be part of a team which won the MIT Covid 19 Challenge.

What did you do?

Our team consisting of myself and the North American based Sandeep Gummadi, Heer Joisher, Saket Tulsan, Hiba Turqui, Luca Pizenberg met during the hackathon itself and worked together across multiple time zones and conceptualised our idea during the event on incentivising restaurant safety. We decided to design an app called CoSAFE, which will rebuild restaurant confidence in order revive the restaurant sector in the Post Covid-19 world. I particularly focused on designing the initial algorithm which will rank restaurant safety using certain parameters.

What was it like?

This was a unique experience where I had the opportunity to communicate my ideas with successful entrepreneurs and receive advice from MIT mentors regarding on how to build business which can take precautions from Covid- 19. The sleepless nights were all worth it when our project was considered as a winner of the hackathon. It felt really empowering to receive validation for an idea by MIT and other associated businesses including major pharmaceutical companies.

What are the next steps after the hackathon?

After winning the MIT Covid 19 challenge the project will receive $500 dollars to boost the development of the idea. Currently, I am working on my own to pursue this idea. In order to push this venture, I am more than happy to have people in my team with a background in app development, website designer, experience in database building and security programmer in order to build this app. This venture will be a perfect opportunity for students to work on a good cause whilst boosting their CV as they will be working on an idea which has the concept approval of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In these tough times I understand the difficulty in finding placements hence I am more than happy to offer this opportunity to anyone struggling to find placements.

Do you have any tips regarding the recruitment process?

I am just looking for people who are passionate about helping the world heal from this virus and with the technical ability to build a solution on this project.

What will you personally take into the future from this experience?

This experience has bolded me to push myself and think outside of the box. The exposure of working with world leaders in their fields has taught me how to cope with the pressure and expectations of delivering ambitious projects. I have seen the effects of this belief this summer when I was assisting research projects on terraforming and planetary science in the University, something I am deeply passionate about. I will use this to motivate myself to make University of St Andrews and my hometown Croydon proud in future ventures.

Have you had an internship experience this summer? Why not share it with us! Email us at pandamagazine@st-andrews.ac.uk

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