9 week hack

3 week sprints

to help communities and colleges cope with COVID-19

The Resiliency Challenge is a nine-week, virtual hackathon, with three-week sprint challenges aimed at catalyzing student innovation in response to the unprecedented situation facing colleges and communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Our goal is to bring the talents of the university technology community together with subject matter experts to envision, design, develop, and deliver solutions to help communities, students, and colleges cope with the challenges of the current COVID-19 reality.

Students, faculty, and administrators are facing a range of challenges associated with the COVID-19 crisis. For example, some students are still scrambling to recover belongings left in dorms, while others are coping with social isolation issues if their roommates have returned home. Student government and clubs are figuring out how to sustain themselves remotely and performing and visual arts students are struggling alongside faculty to adapt to a virtual world while faculty consider how to proctor tens of thousands of remote exams.

The problems that COVID-19 has given rise to expand beyond universities and college campuses. Local government, elected officials, community organizations, and local residents have swung into action delivering daily updates about COVID-19, rapidly mobilizing resources and trying to match these resources to those most in need – from delivering food to the elderly and vulnerable, to educating the public about social distancing, to helping those recovering from addiction who are no longer able to reach their support network. 

These are the realities we want to tackle with the Resiliency Challenge. We hope you join us!


 Participants can participate in one or more of three planned sprint challenges. Each challenge will be judged independently from the other sprints. Projects that continue for multiple sprints will be judged separately from new projects.

Sprint 1

  • Build Sprint

    April 5 – 24

  • Judging

    April 25 – 26


Sprint 2

  • Build Sprint

    April 27 – May 15

  • Judging

    May 16 – 17


Sprint 3

  • Build Sprint

    May 18 – June 5

  • Judging

    June 6 – 7


Challenge projects can be submitted by the community or developed by hackathon participants. We will have tracks, and prizes, based on goals and audiences. See FAQ below and Devpost for more information on prizes.

Census During COVID-19

Making sure everyone is counted in the Census is difficult in the best of times. The census is critical to ensuring we have an accurate count of the population distribution and the demographic characteristics of the population. It determines the allocation of congressional seats and distribution of billions of dollars of federal aid to local communities. These forms can be filled out quickly online, in multiple – but not all – languages, or in written form through phone or in-person interviews. Historically, the Census hires thousands or organizers to go door-to-door to complete these interviews. This effort is supplemented by efforts by more than 300,00 trusted nonprofits and local groups who encourage participation in their communities. This challenge aims to help these local groups reach hard-to-reach populations.


Recovery During COVID-19

People in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction have a unique set of challenges during this time. Many rely on on daily in-person AA and NA meetings or in-person needle exchange or outpatient programs to see them through this process. The locations of these meetings or support services were once known, accessible, and based on set geographic locations and schedules. COVID-19 has disrupted this network of support as everything has moved virtual, we need ways to help these individuals find support. This project seeks to consolidate information about support services (AA and NA meetings – Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, needle exchange programs, in-patient and out-patient recovery programs, and more) and get this support to the people who need it most.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

People are feeling very disconnected from each other because of physical distancing. We need to maintain this practice while also getting help to those who need it most. Neighbor to neighbor support can be a solution during these times, i.e. identify people who live on your block who can be a support person if you can’t leave your house, because you are sick yourself, elderly, have underlying conditions or overwhelmed! Simple activities like taking the trash out, getting food at the nearby food pantry or the grocery store, delivering homemade food. There have been a number of efforts that have cropped up from mutual aid listings to existing sites, such as NextDoor.

Tracking COVID-19 Locally

Johns Hopkins is reporting cases and deaths down to the county level in the US. Can we create a detailed map of cases in Massachusetts? The hack is to scrape the site to generate time-based trends of cases at the county level. Scrape for lots of other counties across the country, in particular, regions roughly comparable to Boston. By comparing trends, you might be able to spot patterns that can help you plan or at least identify others across the country in the same circumstances. Include a communications channel that would make it easy for planners in one area (say Boston) to quickly conference with planners in a comparable area (say Baltimore) to compare notes.

Get Involved

The Resiliency Challenge is seeking partners to collaborate around this important shared moment. We welcome participation from students, universities, local government agencies, elected officials, community partners, and more! Ways to get involved in The Resiliency Challenge include registering for the virtual hackathon as a student participant, proposing a project for our challenges, becoming a mentor, or by sharing information about the hackathon with your networks and on social media. Find out more below!

A virtual hackathon is similar to an in-person hackathon in that it is a team of up to five people working to build a solution to a problem. For the Resiliency Challenge you will be working on a team to solve a problem that has arisen due to COVID-19 or the coronavirus. For the challenge you can either pick your own problem to solve or pick from challenges presented by our program partners. Your project should fall into one of two categories: The Virtual University, projects to help facilitate online learning, or Communities Coping with the Coronavirus Pandemic, projects to help vulnerable communities survive amidst the crisis.


While the goal of this hackathon is to develop technology solution, the best teams will need people who can play a variety of roles, some of which are non-technical including visual design, user experience design, and researchers who can track down the data and information and check with subject matter experts to make sure the solutions that are built are actually meeting the needs of the target users.


Nope! The Resiliency Challenge is competently free!


Anyone over 13 years old can participate but as a university, we are focusing our outreach on college students. You will have to use our virtual channels to find teammates or you are welcome to come with a previously formed team. If you don’t want to participate on a team, but you have technical skills that are relevant, we encourage you to sign up to be a mentor.


You can find teammates on our Resiliency Challenge portal. Or you can sign up for our slack channel here: https://tinyurl.com/resiliency-slack and go to the #teammates channel.


You can either come up with your own project or look through the projects on our website portal.


You can sign up to become a mentor here.


Find them here.


A complete list of the rules can be found here. We will be following the MLH Code of Conduct.


We STRONGLY encourage all projects be submitted by hackers use a MIT license (on your github) so it can be continued by others in the future. The goal is to create solutions for the collective good so opensource licenses feel most appropriate here. Also, for this same purpose, we encourage you to make sure to use code that is available for use under an open source license for your project.


The lead organizer is BU Spark! a technology incubator and experiential learning lab based at Boston University’s Computing and Data Science Faculty, but we have many partners and welcome other institutions who want to leverage this platform to engage their constituents in service of addressing the challenges facing communities and colleges coping with COVID-19.

We will be awarding two prizes every three weeks for the following project tracks (one for new hacks and a second for cumulative hacks, i.e. hacks building on prior work completed):
  • Collecting and Sharing Information
  • Preventing the Spread
  • Addressing Social Isolation/Maintaining Connection
  • Getting resources to those in need
  • Going virtual
  • Addressing the economic fallout
  • Creator’s choice
    We are still determining the specific prizes but we will aim to help the most promising projects get the resources needed to deploy. In addition, we will publicize winners widely.


    Find expectations for judges HERE!


    If you submit the same project during the course of the three sprints we will judge your project based on progress from your most recent submission to our challenge.


    Registration is open for all sprints with no deadline. We will use the submissions to determine which projects are judged for a given period. Projects that have been worked on in previous sprints will need be judged on the progress they have made during that sprint.


    Yes, but make sure you connect with the project partner/ sponsor to make sure you tackle a defined need based on their expertise. You can also explore joining the existing team. There is no limit to the number of teams that can tackle a given challenge, however, given the importance of all the projects, it would make sense to avoid duplicating efforts.


    Please find the Judging Execution Plan HERE.





    Email us: covidres@bu.edu

    About Us

    BU Spark! is a technology incubator and an experiential learning lab for student-led computational and data-driven projects at Boston University’s Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences.