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CODEVID-19 Hackathon unites developers to help solve pandemic problems

CODEVID-19 Hackathon unites Edmonton developers to help solve pandemic problems
WATCH: You may think of "hackers" as a bad thing, but one Edmonton-based group is spreading nothing but good. Community reporter Morgan Black has more on an initiative that's bringing coders across the world together.

An Edmonton-based initiative is bringing coders across the world together.

The CODEVID-19 Hackathon is based on the typical “hackathon”—where developers spend 24 hours working on one collective idea.

“No sleep. We just want to see how much a website or video game we can get done,” said software developer and co-founder Mandy Meindersma.

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Meindersma, along with three other developers at the Dev Edmonton Society, decided to put the same spin on a COVID-19-focused event.

“We wanted to see how many positive things we could make to help people survive and manage the pandemic,” said Meindersma.

“The name… just kind of fit perfectly.”

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CODEVID-19 launched on March 16, 2020 and within the first week, reached 1,000 collaborators.

Participants all communicate online via an instant-messaging platform and then chat by video when they need to break up into their actual business groups.

“It has exploded,” said Meindersma.

Robot that identifies intruders wins hackathon for Alberta student
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Now, 1,600 contributors from around the world are collaborating in some friendly competition.

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“Many of our teams are people from Indonesia, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. We’re all working together, which would usually never happen,” said Meindersma. “It’s around- the-clock work because we have so many people in different time zones.

“We can get so much positive work done.”

A participant can be anyone who is a developer or designer working on an app as well as subject matter experts (SME).

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“SMEs are anyone who needs something built,” said Meindersma. “If there’s a health-care professional who needs an app that they can use with clients, or construction workers trying to follow laws in their area and need a reference for what to do, or people dealing with high-risk populations and looking for tech that could help those people out.”

Projects compete in four problem areas: supporting crisis response, understanding the pandemic, social distancing and isolation, and scarcity and the economy.

READ MORE: Southern Alberta students get coding at Picture Butte hackathon

Users have created projects that include a website that helps volunteer doctors or nurses sign up to take video calls from anyone in the world who has questions about COVID-19, a real-time data update on COVID-19 stats and a website that predicts coronavirus cases over the next 30 days and displays the number of available beds in U.S. hospitals.

The initiative is also aiding those working behind the screen.

“It’s helped me a lot with my mental health.

“Every day I get to talk with developers who have a positive outlook on what’s going on. That’s really been helping me along,” said Meindersma.

Participants can join CODEVID-19 up until the final submission deadline on April 30. The Dev Edmonton Society is awarding monetary prizes weekly to participants and will also award a grand prize.

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“The three winners that we have announced already have working websites and prototypes, so people are already using them,” said Meindersma. “It’s been incredible to watch.”