George Hacks Responds to COVID-19 Needs

During the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19, many organizations across the GW campus have assumed a role to help the local DC community combat the crisis. Several interdisciplinary groups have teamed up with first responders to ideate innovative solutions ranging from 3D printing PPE to designing informative websites. Surpassing the ambition of these initiatives is the ability for project teams to collaboratively create these impactful designs with limited in-person contact. Some of these teams, in fact, have never met in person. 

Several GW students and faculty have been actively working on fabricating 3D printed masks and face shields for medical personnel. This project emerged as a response to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) that numerous health care facilities across the nation have been facing. As more people test positive in recent months, the demand for PPE has significantly increased across hospitals across the world. When the GW Hospital experienced such a shortage, members from the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), GW Hospital, GW Innovation Center (GWIC), George Hacks, and others pooled resources to work on addressing the need. Leading the 3D printing farm is Mr. Huckenpahler, a digital lab professor from the GW Corcoran School of Art and Design, who along with his team was able to  “produce 200 face shields for GW Hospital staff in just under a week” according to an article by GW Today. This monumental task was achieved by twelve 3D printers provided by the GW Corcoran School of the Arts & Design along with an additional six owned by George Hacks and GWIC.  

The same article mentions two other projects that students and faculty are working on to assist first responders. One of these projects is the production of N95 comparable respirators with “removable and replaceable units, some of which can be sanitized and reused unlike most N95 respirators.” This design was approved by the hospital’s own quality tests and is now being standardized, scaled to different sizes, and manufactured in bulk.

Another team of students and faculty led by David Lee and Carl Wick, former SEAS professors, is developing a touch-less hospital screening system. Their kiosk design provides a foot-pedal answering system for pre-screening questionnaires and allows one’s temperature to be measured from a distance, appropriately sending staff to the correct waiting areas. Doing so facilitates separation between people with and without fevers in order to vet those who are most likely to test positive for COVID-19.

Team members on this project include George Hacks Co-Founders, Konstantin Mitic and Caitlyn Pratt; former Technical Director, Matt Taylor; and George Hacks Director Karen Rius. With most of the GW campus closed down to the public, Matt transported the project to his apartment located only a few blocks from the GW Hospital. There he created a full workshop in his lounge, allowing him to seamlessly continue contributing to the kiosk project. His proximity to the hospital also provided Matt the convenience to test the kiosk on volunteers in person. Hence, he was able to observe and fix calibration errors in the thermometer before finalizing the systems. 

Aside from the shortage of PPE and lack of contact-free hospital screening methods, another issue that has drastically impacted the work environment of all medical professionals is the lack of a single compilation of latest COVID-19 medical and public health information relevant to their roles as first responders. In response to this need, Jordan Selzer of the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences Lance Hoffman, a GW computer science professor, recruited a group of SEAS and George Hacks students to design a website named Disaster Consult. According to another GW Today article, this website aims to “give care providers quick, digestible information about best practices in the face of various emergencies,” which is especially valuable for small medical facilities in rural areas at risk of being flooded with numerous patients in a short time. As these types of hospitals typically lack a trauma center, staff with specialized disaster training, and a protocol for dealing with large numbers of patients,  it is imperative they have access to reliable updates on the evolving pandemic without having to digest lengthy academic papers.

After the website design had been finalized, more than 50 third and fourth year medical student volunteers, who were unable to conduct their usual hospital rounds due to restrictions imposed by the pandemic, redirected their time towards compiling the content for the website. The tremendous assistance provided by these students allowed the website to be fully functional in under a month. Of course, the website is constantly undergoing development and improvement. Possible translation to a mobile application is expected.

George Hacks is proud to continue supporting the GW community in its endeavors to combat COVID-19. To get involved in some of these initiatives, visit the ‘Projects’ page of our website, or feel free to contact us with questions.

George Hacks Wishes Dr. David Lee the Best as He Retires from GW

This year, the George Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) is saying goodbye to one of its own faculty members, Dr. David Lee. After coming to teach at GW in 2015, Professor Lee is retiring following the impactful legacy he has left with the school.

Five years ago, Lee became the Associate Professor of Practice in the Biomedical Engineering Department here at GW. Here, he taught biomedical engineering as the primary faculty advisor of the BME senior capstone course. Additionally, he taught BME undergraduates across all years, providing all of his students with valuable insights into the field of engineering as seen in practice.  Professor Lee constantly demonstrated his passion for education and strove to tailor learning curriculums towards guaranteeing the success of future engineers.

Specifically for George Hacks, Professor Lee’s long standing support will forever be cherished. Alongside Professor Zara, he has consistently been an invaluable mentor to our team. During his time here, he was also an active volunteer at each of our three annual Medical Solutions Hackathons to date. Not only did he encourage his students to participate in these events, but he also assisted numerous participants in idea formation and design optimization in person at the event. Without his unconditional support, George Hacks wouldn’t be the organization that it is today. 

Students and past participants had this to say about Professor Lee; 

It was an honor to be an LA for Professor Lee’s freshman seminar class this past semester. His dedication shows both in and out of the classroom, and his focus on a well-rounded engineering education with an emphasis on human centered design encouraged me to explore unique applications of biomedical engineering.

Giavanna Corazza, SEAS ‘22, Past Participant & George Hacks Team Member

Professor Lee always challenged me in unique ways in his freshman BME 1020 course and for that I am forever grateful. He helped me develop an engineering mindset and that it is okay to think outside the box. It was a pleasure to have Dr.Lee as a professor and to work alongside him as a teaching assistant this past spring semester. Thank you Professor Lee for all your words of encouragement and advice. You will truly be missed.

Justina Pruski, SEAS ‘21, Past Participant

Thank you Professor Lee for continuing to guide the BME class from our first BME 1010 course all the way through Capstone. You have taught us valuable lessons and have shaped our attitude, mentality, and the way we think to be better engineers. Best of luck in your future adventures and enjoy your well-deserved retirement!

Camille Daszynski, SEAS ‘20, Past Participant

George Hacks will miss Professor David Lee greatly as he moves forward from GW. Not only has he been a key advisor and supporter of our organization, but he also fulfilled an integral role in our SEAS community. During his time here, he passionately taught students the engineering mindset and was a mentor to many. He truly exemplified what it means to lead by example and we wish him all the best in all his future endeavors.

We are so grateful for the time, commitment, and mentorship Dr. Lee has shown the George Hacks team and participants. He has come to every one of our events since the very first George Hacks medical hackathon, and we look forward to inviting him back to GW for all our future events.

Caitlyn Pratt, SEAS ’20, Former Director of George Hacks

George Hacks Faculty Advisor, Dr. Jason Zara, Is Awarded the 2020 Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence

This year the George Washington University celebrated its Tenth Annual Faculty Honors Ceremony. Every year, notable faculty members are selected from a variety of schools for their “extraordinary dedication to teaching, scholarship, and the university.” Hosted by the office of the Provost and the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, this ceremony aims to honor remarkable faculty members at GW.  Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, live celebrations have been postponed, but award winners will still be recognized virtually. 

Several faculty members from the GW School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) won awards during the virtual ceremony, including the Oscar and Shoshana Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching Excellence. Established in 1990 by President Emeritus Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, it is presented to a faculty member who demonstrates excellence in teaching, defined as “the accurate and effective communication to undergraduate students of important cultural, historical, or scientific material, as well as current scholarship and scholarly debates in the fields involved.” The award is presented to a professor nominated and endorsed by undergraduate students and their department respectively. 

This year, George Hacks is proud to congratulate Professor Jason Zara for winning this award. As a devoted member in the SEAS community, he has exemplified remarkable dedication to both GW and his students.  An accomplished engineer, Professor Zara has won numerous other awards, founded two start-ups, and holds seven U.S patents.  Additionally, he has worked for the last 18 years in developing medical imaging technology for detection of “epithelial cancers, epilepsy, and other human diseases”. Nonetheless, Professor Zara remains an integral member of SEAS, taking the time to mentor students and strengthen the GW Department of Biomedical Engineering.

George Hacks Faculty Advisor, Dr. Jason Zara, awarded $25,000 grant from the KEEN Foundation

Our faculty advisor, Jason Zara, was awarded a $25,000 grant from the KEEN Foundation for a project titled “Engineering for the Public Good.” Dr. Zara  will work with Annamaria Konya Tannon (GW Innovation Center) and GW Engineering to develop community engagement projects that focus on the development of an entrepreneurial engineering mindset.

KEEN consists of a network of universities that focus on developing an entrepreneurial mindset in engineering undergraduates. KEEN strives to help students learn how to be curious about the problems surrounding them, make connections between multiple areas of information, and create value for the world by developing engineering solutions to important problems. GW joined KEEN in the fall of 2018.

We are very proud of Professor Zara’s work to improve our undergraduate students education!

Dr. Jason Zara (BME) and Dr. Vesna Zderic (BME) attended the KEEN National Conference, held January 3-5 in Dallas, TX.

George Hacks partners with the Veterans Health Administration

Last month, the Veterans Health Administration became an official partner of George Hacks. We are proud to join the VHA to highlight the many areas in which students can improve the lives of U.S. Veterans living with a wide range of disabilities incurred while serving our country.

At the 2019 Medical Solutions Hackathon, attending local veterans gave students the unique opportunity to address their personal medical needs, ranging from prosthetic adaptations for outdoor activities to medical examination accessibility.

We are incredibly grateful to be able to give our competitors the opportunity to improve the lives of those who dedicated their lives to improving ours, and we look forward to broadening our impact in continuing our engagement with the veteran population in future events.