Aussie team wins COVID-19 hackathon
A team of five Australians have won the Best Use of Technology category in NASA’s global Space Apps COVID-19 Challenge virtual hackathon, beating more than 1400 teams from 150 countries with their COVID-19 safe air purifying solution.
In May 2020, space agencies including NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and France’s National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) invited experts and innovative thinkers from all over the world to come up with solutions to one of 12 challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic, using space agency resources. In a 48-hour virtual hackathon, coders, entrepreneurs, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, artists and technologists from 150 countries participated in the online hackathon.
Researchers from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and its nandin innovation centre chose to develop a system to monitor and purify indoor air in confined spaces such as lifts and public transport systems, where it is impossible to avoid breathing the exhaled air from other passengers. Using NASA satellite data of New York to identify trends of one major air pollutant, they highlighted the correlation between public transport connectivity (train and subway stations/underground lines), air quality and COVID-19 case distribution.
The team’s system, called Elavo, prevents COVID-19 infections from spreading in buildings or vehicles by using NASA technology to sterilise and change the direction of air flow in small, shared spaces. The solution combines air purification technology with a UVC light sterilisation process to apply to surfaces.
“After analysing NASA’s data, it became very clear that there is a direct link between the use of public transport and how COVID-19 is spread,” said team captain Mitra Safavi-Naeini, from ANSTO.
“But public transport is part of everyday life and the Elavo solution is about reducing the potential of infection and keeping people safe.”
As winners of the Best Use of Technology category, the team will be featured on the Space Apps website and will be invited to present and discuss pathways for the realisation of their project to NASA and other international space agencies. When travel is deemed safe, the team will also be invited to visit a NASA site to view a spacecraft launch.
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