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Meinig School undergraduates win big at AI Health Hackathon
Five Cornell undergraduates traveled to New York City in February to compete alongside 140 other student participants in the 7th annual AI Health Hackathon held at Weill Cornell Medicine. But they didn’t just participate; they won.
Answering the challenge to harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve patient care, the team designed VitalMask--a smart mask that monitors patient vitals to combat ER overcrowding while preventing the transmission of airborne disease. The idea was inspired by the need for personal protective gear in an emergency room setting coupled with the issue of emergency room overcrowding, which is exacerbated by situations like the COVID-19 pandemic.
VitalMask won 1st overall and 3rd in the IBM coronavirus challenge at the event.
The VitalMask team is comprised of undergraduate students Allison Fleisher (BME ’21) and Kristen Ong (BME ’21) from the Meinig School, along with Longsha Liu (Biological Sciences '21), Ray Wei (CS '21), and Jason Chen (Biological Sciences '22) from other Cornell departments, as well as Breanna Veilleux of the Stevens Institute of Technology (ECE '20).
“This was the first time participating in a hackathon for most of the team members,” said Fleisher, “so we were very excited to have done so well, especially given the limited number of undergraduate students participating.”
At Cornell the VitalMask team members also participate in Cornell University Biomedical Device (CUBMD), a team of multidisciplinary undergraduate students formed under a shared interest for biomedical device innovation to further advance healthcare, advised by Meinig School Professor James Antaki.
Since the hackathon, the team has begun working alongside mentors from Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell Entrepreneurship, and the Meinig School to create a startup to bring their idea to market and to help as many people as possible.
“Due to the continuous widespread support [VitalMask] has been receiving from many professionals as well as its applications to the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have decided to move forward as a new biomedical innovation startup, Vita Innovations,” said Kristen Ong. “We’re undergoing rigorous research, development, and outreach in order to market our product as soon as possible. I believe that our innovation will make a lasting impact during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
The team is currently in the process of securing funding through grants and crowdfunding before prototyping begins. They have set up a website, Vita Innovations Co., as well as a GoFundMe account for donations.
Hosted Feb. 7-9 by Weill Cornell Medicine’s Clinical & Translational Science Center (CTSC), the AI Health Hackathon brought together students and research scientists—doctors, engineers, computer scientists, AI experts, bio-statisticians, entrepreneurs and others—as well as innovators from Cornell’s Ithaca campus and Cornell Tech with the goal to find ways to harness artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve patient care.