April 2020

Finding real-world solutions to COVID-19

For Digital Media student, Jacklyn Biggin, a desire to help others during the COVID-19 outbreak led to the start of a global, virtual battle against the virus.

Her efforts have seen over 3,000 participants from six continents join a global hackathon – an event which finds solutions to problems caused by the virus.

“The goal is simple,” Jacklyn says. “We want to give participants the platform and tools to create real-world solutions.”

Jacklyn created Hack Quarantine, her own version of popular hackathon events. As Jacklyn explains, a hackathon is an opportunity for students and professionals to create technological solutions to challenges. “Generally, a hackathon is done over a weekend. I spent my year abroad in Canada flying around North America attending lots of in-person hackathon events. The Hack Quarantine is a little different, because it’s all virtual.

“The idea came to me when universities across the country began to move lectures online. I moved to Birmingham to stay with a friend, because both of my parents are key workers, so I've been unable to return home. It’s been really hard, and I wanted to do something to help others who were having a difficult time.

“I'm in a group chat with hackathon organisers across the country. I asked if anyone wanted to create a virtual hackathon, and the response was incredible – we pulled it all together in just ten days, organising the entire thing remotely, and we now have a team of 25 students from across the country keeping Hack Quarantine up and running.”

"The livestream has had over 33,000 views since 23rd March, which just goes to show how far the project has come."

Jacklyn Biggin
Digital Media student

The Hack Quarantine team is working with medical and industry professionals to provide participants with the knowledge and tools they need to find solutions in key areas.

“People can submit solutions in set categories,” Jacklyn explains. “These are: supporting people quarantined or at risk; improving awareness and behaviour; solving problems in tech and health; and solving problems in remote working. So far, we’ve had some really great submissions.”

The submissions include a tool to forecast COVID-19 spread in different countries, a bot that connects co-workers through impromptu chats to help with social interactions, and a system which crowdsources wellness checks to ensure that vulnerable people get the help they need. In short, they are solutions that will truly make a difference in the upcoming months.

Hack Quarantine hosts a 24/7 livestream of workshops delivered by volunteer industry experts, partnered companies and community groups. “The livestream has had over 33,000 views since 23rd March, which just goes to show how far the project has come.”

With so many creative minds involved, thanks to Jacklyn, the potential for life-changing solutions is huge. Anyone can get involved in the hackathon by visiting the website, where mentors are ready to help newcomers from all backgrounds to make a difference.