More than 300 Aggies are looking for solutions to COVID-19-related problems, from finding ways to deliver supplies to at-risk patients to improving over-the-phone diagnoses.

The 71 teams, made up of Texas A&M students from departments across the university, will compete in the Aggies Against COVID-19 Virtual Competition throughout the month. Students are tasked with creating a 7- to 10-minute video showcasing a problem they identified, its impact and their proposed solution. Five teams with the best ideas will be entered into the annual Engineering Project Showcase — a chance to present their videos to industry leaders. Top teams will also be invited to join the Engineering Incubator, which provides teams with funding and time with experts who can help move ideas forward. 

The overall goal, Executive Director of Industry and Nonprofit Partnerships Magda Lagoudas said, is to connect students with people who could benefit from their solutions and find ways to make the ideas a reality. 

“I’m hoping our students will generate unique approaches to solve some of the pressing problems we have right now,” Lagoudas said. “Because they are young and don’t have boundaries of what is and isn’t possible, they may come up with unique solutions. I’m hoping that when that happens, the community can step in and say ‘We never thought about this. We would like to take this to the next step.’”

Lagoudas said that if there are more than five extraordinary teams, they could be entered to the Engineering Project Showcase as well. Anyone with ideas that can potentially help the community will be connected with experts in the health industry who may be able put the project into action, Lagoudas said.

Graduate student organizer Josh VanCura thought of the idea for the virtual competition. He said he, and likely other students, felt helpless for a while as he saw the problems caused by COVID-19. VanCura said he hopes the competition can help ease some of the challenges caused by the pandemic. 

“This event shows that there are a lot of students who want to help. ... I think it gave them an opportunity to do that,” VanCura said.

The competition is for current students, but Lagoudas said community members are welcome to serve as team mentors to help develop projects. 

Participants will be judged based on the quality of their problem definition, methodology to developing a solution, the proposed solution and video quality. 

VanCura said the competition plans and details came together within the past couple weeks, and he’s happy to see how many people want to get involved so quickly.

“I hope that students come up with incredible ideas,” VanCura said, “and we can work toward implementing those ideas and saving lives.” 

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