Columbia Design Challenge: Confronting the Ebola Crisis

Click on the image to see photos from the Oct. 2 teaming sessions. slideshow
—Photos by Jane Nisselson

The Mailman School of Public Health and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science are sponsoring a Design Challenge to conceive low-cost technology-driven (including both software and hardware) solutions to meet the tremendous challenges posed by the Ebola Crisis. The goal of this rapid-fire, highly focused and intense Design Challenge will be to produce a credible design-concept (or rough prototype, if possible) to win continued support toward rapid development of a technology-driven solution (within approximately one to two months).

We invite students, postdocs, faculty, and staff from all schools to participate.

The Design Challenge will be organized as follows:


Week One

Thursday, October 2

  • 5:00 – 7:00 PM
    Davis Auditorium
    CEPSR 412 (Schapiro Building; Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research)

    Ebola Crisis Design Challenge Discussion Forum (download presentation—pdf | watch video of the presentation)

    A summary of the current state of the Ebola crisis and a description of a small number of specific challenges for which low-cost technology solutions could have an immediate impact—ranging from addressing contamination and decontamination, to communications, to transportation and logistics.

  • 7:00 PM
    Pizza and refreshments provided immediately outside Davis Auditorium

  • 7:00 PM – onwards
    Mudd 535
    Mudd 545
    Mudd 520
    CEPSR 414

    Teaming sessions organized around specific challenge topics, resulting in preliminary design concepts

    The discussions and design sessions of this design challenge are considered Columbia only and do not constitute Public Disclosure: By attending these proceedings, you agree to treat all subject matter related to solutions to the issues discussed or described during the proceedings—whether in the form of conversations, presentations, or otherwise—as confidential.

Friday, October 3

  • 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM
    Costa Engineering Commons (CEPSR 750)
    Carleton Lounge
    CEPSR 414

    Breakout design sessions in which teams continue to formulate and refine initial designs and prepare proposals/pitches to address one of the specific challenges

  • 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
    Mudd 520

    Pitch sessions (sign up to pitch | download the pitch template—pdf): two-minute pitches to a panel of Columbia and external experts who will provide feedback on early design concepts

    Expert Review Panel
    Christopher Aston, Senior Biological Safety Officer, Columbia University
    Mary C. Boyce, Dean, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University
    Aderemi Dosunmu, Biology Safety Officer, Columbia University
    Wafaa M. El-Sadr, University Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University
    E. Yoko Furuya, Medical Director of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
    Sanat Kumar, Professor of Chemical Engineering, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University
    Stephen Morse, Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University Medical Center
    Mark Scovill, Director of Naval ROTC, Columbia University and Captain, U.S. Navy
    Christopher Tan, Scientific Technician, The Earth Institute, Columbia University

Saturday, October 4 through Thursday, October 9

  • Teams continue to refine initial designs; begin implementation of proposals; order and purchase materials as needed for prototyping of selected pitches; and continue iteration of designs.

    Partial support—both resources and advising—will be available to kickstart designs deemed promising during Friday’s expert pitch events.

If you have any interest in help patenting anything you build at this event, or if you have any questions about IP more generally, we encourage you to check out the Columbia IP FAQ for students or email


Week Two

Thursday, October 9 (afternoon) through Tuesday, October 14

  • Rooms to be announced

    Continue implementation of designs including building hardware and software solutions; the goal is to produce a credible demonstration of the design-concept. Labs and makerspaces to be announced.

Wednesday, October 15

  • 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM
    Friedman Conference Room, 520 Mudd

    Presentation of minimum viable solutions—hardware and software—to panel of Columbia and external experts. The panel will identify leading design concepts for continued development of deployable solutions.

500 W. 120th St., Mudd 510, New York, NY 10027    212-854-2993