CS Majors Helping Automate a Safe Return to In-person Work and School

A new automated tool that uses the latest Covid-19 health and safety research is on track to help organizations plan and implement a safe return to in-person work and school amid the pandemic.

Called Rotations, the web-based platform was selected on Jan. 28 as the winning concept for Hack Covid-19, a student hackathon organized by Emory Global Health Institute and Georgia Tech. The winning team includes two Georgia Tech computer science (CS) majors.

Rotations is an automated schedule generator that helps mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in shared workspaces. According to its developers, the tool uses current health and safety data to auto-generate schedules, as well as suggested seating layouts, optimized to keep returning in-person employees and students safe.

“We put ourselves in the place of an office manager or school administrator and asked, ‘What kind of tool could make returning to in-person functions as easy as possible and how could we minimize the spread of the virus as much as possible at the same time?’” said Arvin Poddar, Rotations team member and third-year Georgia Tech CS major.

The schedules and seating charts output by the platform are customizable based on variables unique to a particular workspace. These can include a maximum number of people, square footage of a room, ventilation, and other factors. These data points are also used to calculate a safety score that integrates available research resources.

“We are trying to change the game by looking at the research and seeing how floor layouts can truly be optimized with data,” said Merissa Coleman, team member and a third-year human health major from Emory University.

Another feature that helps mitigate the spread of the virus is the platform’s ability to automatically stagger arrival times for in-person employees. This helps to minimize contact and ensure proper social distancing. If someone does report contracting Covid-19, the platform has a contact tracing function that will automatically alert all of those that were in recent contact with that person.

“We wanted the product to be applicable to both management and employees. So, along with being easy to use, we wanted to be able to give peace of mind to those returning to the office and the classroom,” said Coleman.

As the winners of the Hack Covid-19 competition, Coleman, Poddar, and teammate Ryan Cobelli – also a Georgia Tech CS major – receive a $3,500 cash prize and earn a spot in the CREATE-X Startup Launch program this summer. CREATE-X is Georgia Tech’s entrepreneurial accelerator for students that helps develop projects like Rotations into business startups.

“As we know, Covid is changing every day and the situation is evolving. So, we are really looking forward to developing this product into something that people can really use,” said Poddar.

A primary feature that the team would like to develop while participating in the Startup Launch program is direct integration of the Rotations tool. Being able to directly connect with systems that schools and businesses already use will do away with the current need for administrators to manually upload .csv files to develop rosters.

Beyond this, Poddar sees potential for even more integration with existing systems.

“Ultimately, maybe Rotations doesn’t even need to be its own stand-alone platform. Maybe it could be directly integrated into an existing HR system or learning management platform,” said Poddar.