Intro/Overview of the project (Yunseo):
This project was spearheaded by a group of students from MIT’s Research Science Institute, including myself (PEA ‘21). After noticing that CDC’s list of testing sites had only just over 90 sites across the country, we began with the initiative to bring together the most comprehensive list of testing sites as possible. Now, we have data from over 20 states and our list is only growing each day! When you type in your location to our search bar, we can locate you to the closest testing sites to your location. We also added in a Google Form that allows our users to let us know of testing sites that we didn’t account for! Excited for where this project takes us!
How did this project start? (Shruthi):
The idea for the project actually came from a conversation Angelin Matthew and I had after RSI got cancelled. We were really upset but started wondering why we hadn’t already come together as a group to do anything. After all, it’s a group of 80 of the world’s best young researchers - we had to do something! So, we reached out to everyone to form a group and began brainstorming ideas when this came out as one people were interested in it. It initially was just Yoland, Kenneth, and I but there was soon a lot of interest in it and our team is really big now. It’s interesting because science is meant to adapt and be in action. We were so sad for a day (and cried) until we realized, having been selected, we have a responsibility as young scientists. In our team of 80 Rickoids, there are so many distinct areas of expertise and the testing/screening locator is only one of the many coming endeavors. There are a lot more ideas where this came from so stayed tuned for more from us!
Elaborate on the technical aspects of the project? (Yoland):
How was the data gathered? (Kenneth)
At first, we couldn’t find any compiled information on screening and testing locations in the US, so we started to gather them state-by-state by looking at local news articles. We found information from Florida, Connecticut, Alabama, and Alaska, but the data collection quickly became tedious. Soon, however, one of us spotted a TechCrunch article about a database created by the Coders Against COVID19 that listed sites all across the US! The database is open-source, so we are using it along with other sites that we are constantly updating. Overall, it took two days to compile enough data to launch the site. Our main focus now is to collect even more data as public sites spring up across the US.
How will the data be kept up to date? (John)
After uploading hundreds of entries and getting the site running, we split the team up into groups and delegated specific regions of the U.S. to each group. Each group will be responsible for maintaining accurate and relevant information for their region by checking to make sure each testing/screening site remains open and/or looking out for new sites that are open. Every week, we will upload all the new/updated entries into our database, and the website will be updated accordingly.
Plans for publicity? (Ellie)
So far, we have been relying on social media to publicize the project. We’ve posted on our own pages as well as in local media groups. We also recently started posting in larger Facebook groups related to the virus, which allows us to reach a larger audience outside of the people we know. We’ve contacted a few larger Instagram accounts with the hopes that we can be featured on their pages, which would be really exciting and help us reach more people who would not have known about the project otherwise.
Future directions? (Alex)
At the onset of this pandemic, we would’ve never imagined that a program, half a year away and halfway across the globe, would be somehow impacted by a few isolated cases in a central China city. These past few months have been an unprecedented question mark. It is unclear when and if life will return to normalcy. One thing is clear however: this is a universal issue, and this fight is for all of humanity, regardless of origins and ideas. That’s why the RSI 37 Rickoids, representing virtually every state and dozens of nationalities, though unable to physically unite this summer, are mentally uniting behind this common cause. Our diverse passions and specialties have facilitated an explosion of ingenuity. The Rickoids are 3D printing masks, collecting narratives of those directly impacted around the world, analyzing the genomes and virulence, predicting spread patterns, and brainstorming initiatives to curb economic distress globally. The website, though an impressive feat, is just the beginning.