RIT student team develops idea for COVID-19 vaccination distribution software system
Students utilize Simone Center programs to move MassVaxx forward
A. Sue Weisler
With a global pandemic on our hands, a group of professors and student volunteers came together to build a software system that helps people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Among these students was Peter Hogya, a fourth-year computer science major from Bayville, N.Y., who has been instrumental in this “need-of-the-hour” innovation involving the distribution of these vaccinations.
How did this idea come together?
It all started when I attended a virtual hackathon for the Society for Imaging in Informatics and Medicine in Wisconsin in the summer of 2020. I joined forces with the Marquette University team to brainstorm a way to combat the results of this pandemic. MassVaxx was initially an idea that came from a professor at the Opus College of Engineering while in conversation with an incident management team who expressed a need for a tool to distribute COVID-19 vaccines. The professor worked on this idea and brought it to the hackathon. With the news of the release of the vaccine, our team, which consisted of students well versed in biomedical engineering and computer science, decided to aim at a way to get these vaccines out to the mass population, and this was when MassVaxx was born.
Can you explain how MassVaxx works?
MassVaxx is essentially an app designed to aid health-related departments when the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to the general public by creating a smooth registration and vaccination process. Our team built an initial version of MassVaxx during a hackathon. Post hackathon, a few Marquette professors approached the students that were part of this team to take this forward collaboratively. Fast forward to Feb. 26 and we conducted our first functional test, which was a rousing success. We had about 30 volunteers that were nurses, software testers, students, and family of people on the Marquette side of our team, as the test was conducted in Wisconsin. We got a lot of feedback. One of the nurses said, “It took us 10 minutes to set up the app and we were up and flying.”
How did you get connected with RIT’s Simone Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship?
As an RIT student, I got the opportunity to participate in the innovation programs at the Simone Center, where I decided to pitch the MassVaxx idea. I also ended up recruiting three other RIT students—Antony Lin and Nicholas Mulhern, computer science majors, and Thomas Ryszkiewicz, a recent graduate in web design—to work on the project. For the Innovation Fellows Program in the fall, we performed around 50 customer discovery interviews. For the Accelerator Program that is happening now, we’re doing around 200 customer discovery interviews. The coaches that we worked with at Simone Center, especially Mark Boylan, Anthony Testa, and Craig McGowan, helped us develop our marketing and business plans, and helped prepare us to pitch to potential investors.
How does someone sign up to use MassVaxx?
As of today, MassVaxx is a nonprofit organization with around 30 volunteers currently working with the Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition, an emergency management organization in Wisconsin, to test their software. A patient using MassVaxx would be prompted to provide basic personal and health details and schedule an appointment at the site. This handles everything required to get the vaccination so that the patient would not have to do anything on the site except schedule the vaccination. Once the appointment is scheduled and all the required details are provided, a QR code is generated which can be used by the patient to swipe in. Workers administering this vaccine can just scan the code on-site to view patient information easily, which helps in making the process quick and efficient. This app is also used to help manage the sites, keep track of people who are vaccinated, inventory, and wastage.
What are your goals for this project?
I am currently the president and business development lead for MassVaxx. Over the last semester, we have been responsible for conducting customer interviews and talking to around 40 different emergency management service providers, nurses, and people in healthcare to try and bridge any gaps that we foresee. At the end of spring, we will be pitching to potential investors. The goal is simple: to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, so we can all get on with our lives. If anyone would like to help or join us, email email@example.com.