Local students combat COVID-19 with research, technology


A group of Arizona high school students called Remidi-19 formed to research and attempt to remedy the rapidly-spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

While the recent pandemic overtakes the world --- shutting down municipalities, regions, schools, social events and more --- local students, Ethan Wilk, Kasyap Chakravadhanula, Ritvik Warrier, Raymond Nucuta, and Suraj Puvvadi wanted to attack the coronavirus the best way they knew how.

“After the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, in early 2020, we created the organization as our own personal emergency initiative to respond to the crisis, noting its widespread effects on our very own community,” Mr. Wilk said.

“While national public health efforts were much better left to the professionals, we noticed that little had been researched in the applications of unique technology such as blockchain and machine learning in mitigating the social effects of this disease.”

He and his peers with an “extensive understanding of such fields,” got to work, said Mr. Wilk,  a BASIS Scottsdale eleventh-grader.

As some youths revel in the time off from school after an indefinite closure, and standardized exams canceled or postponed countrywide, he said the group realized the seriousness of the disease’s global impact on populations and wanted to do something about it.

“In an effort to capitalize on this newfound time, we plan to work on the project and improve its models whenever we have the chance. It seems as though a time like this is the only time saying ‘every second counts,’ is not a cliché,” Mr. Wilk said.

One place to learn everything

Realizing some of his peers were developing similar ideas on how to help during this crisis, Remidi-19 generated a list of people capable of developing the necessary technological aspects and those capable of spreading the message to the public before too late.

Aspiring computer scientist Kasyap Chakravadhanula, 16, wants to work in the medical field and apply new technology to help people.

He described the importance of providing an easy, centralized way to understand and monitor the coronavirus by addressing topics such as its future, implications, and how to stay safe depending on where and who you are.

“We saw that there was a lot of chaos and confusion during the time where coronavirus started to become more and more of a threat, so we wanted to make the most of the amount of time we were at home, to improve the public understanding of the crisis and where it will be going in the future, as well as how people can keep themselves safe,” said Mr. Chakravadhanula.

He added that he wanted to use his acquired skills to “put some needed-clarity on this massive issue that’s affecting the globe and especially to help our community stay safe.”

The Stanford hopeful used his skills attained in web development and computational epidemiology for the project.

“I’ve done research at Stanford and ASU in computational biology, and it was really exciting to take it a step further with this real-world implementation,” Mr. Chakravadhanula said, noting his excitement for working on a project that he is passionate about that impacts the community.

“I’ve also learned that people are often happy to help if you truly believe in something, as we’ve seen in our efforts reaching out to professors and labs for guidance.”

The youth innovators contacted professors from local universities and researchers from disease control centers to gain insight on the disease. The initial reaction to the predictions, Mr. Wilk said was one of mutual skepticism.

“Not even we believed our projections could be accurate. However, the continuously exponential spread of COVID-19 has only served to prove our hypothesis was correct. In times like these, it’s ironically never fun to be right,” he said, noting that the crisis was put in perspective for him while watching its toll on global financial markets like the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing an unprecedented amount in a single day.

“From this project, we hope to provide some key insights for not only our local community, but the entire nation. Our website includes widgets that can inform citizens how at risk they are of contraction in a given state, or based on given medical conditions. We also predict hospitals that will be most damaged and contact their staff accordingly.

Our developers are currently working on developing models to calculate risk of contraction from a given flight ID. These procedures all serve to help us raise a greater awareness for the people. Together, and with the power of data science, we can overcome this,” Mr. Wilk said.

For those interested in issues about the coronavirus, the Remidi 19 website offers vast information on everything from statistical counters, to lifestyle recommendations, and even predictions for future COVID-19 growth so people are more informed about the virus, and have one place to learn anything they want to know, said Mr. Nucuta, 16, a future Arizona State University student who wants to double major in math and computer science.

“I have learned a great deal from this experience. Specifically, I learned about epidemiological vectors, the way disease spreads, and how to write the backend for websites,” Mr. Nucuta said, detailing people reactions to the virus.

“Everyone was stocking up on toilet paper and other commodities, and there was a mass frenzy to get simple items, and some people were even going a little crazy.

Seeing this phenomenon, we all agreed that with some more information, our fellow community members would be better educated and make more calculated, rational decisions. With the extra time we had due to the school closures, we went to work programming the website,” Mr. Nucuta said.

Mr. Wilk said the project uses historical, geographic, and mathematical information to predict how disastrous the virus could be.

“For example, we develop models that can determine how at risk you are of catching the disease based on your location, BMI, history of medical conditions, and other factors. We try to make our technological backing as understandable as possible,” Mr. Wilk said.

He encouraged the public to see remidi19.org/tech.html as it explains in-depth and clears up misconceptions about the pandemic.

“To cope with it, I have become increasingly precautious of my sanitary procedures regarding washing my hands or properly sanitizing, and have adopted the practice of self-quarantine in an effort to protect my parents from possible infection.

The scary thing about the disease isn’t its effects on the young, healthy youth; it is its effects on older people, and my parents’ health is never something I would take lightly,” he added.