PEA student collaborates on COVID-19 test locator

Yunseo Choi '21 helped develop a website to allow people to find test sites nearest them.

April 3, 2020
Yunseo Choi

Yunseo Choi ’21 is among 80 rising high school seniors chosen to attend the Research Science Institute, MIT’s renowned STEM program, this summer. When she and others in the incoming class at the institute saw they could put their collective brainpower to use even sooner, they got to work.

To help contain the COVID-19 outbreak across the United States, Yunseo and her new friends developed a website to help people locate the testing sites nearest to their home.

A three-year upper who lives in Merrill Hall, Yunseo is riding out spring term in Seoul, Korea, where her parents relocated a year ago after raising her in North Carolina and New Jersey. She still plans to attend RSI this summer, although the six-week session will now be conducted online.

We caught up with Yunseo over email to ask about the project:

How did the project come together?

I was supposed to attend this upcoming summer. RSI is a program for high school juniors which usually takes place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but is now scheduled to be held virtually. Thankfully, we had already become acquainted with one another through social media and occasional Zoom calls. Although we haven’t attended virtual RSI yet, we began to brainstorm for ways to help those around us — the COVID-19 testing center locator is just one of many ideas that came to fruition! 

Where are the other students with whom you collaborated?

All around the country and even some from other countries. RSI does a good job of selecting students with geographic diversity. Specifically, the students on the core team are from anywhere from Massachusetts to Ohio to California! Although initially the project was spearheaded by a small team of students from RSI, we later added some of our friends for extra sets of eyes, especially to make sure that our data was correct and kept up to date. Now our project has almost 20 volunteers! 

What was your role in the project?  

We didn’t have official roles. I think this is one of the aspects that made the project so fun and collaborative! Instead of bearing responsibilities that may come as a burden, we took on tasks as they came up. This worked perfectly because we were all so passionate about the cause! For example, when we wanted to make available our website in different languages, we all hopped on a Google Sheet and translated the website in our respective languages. When we wanted to verify and update information, we each looked at the sites in neighborhoods that we are familiar with. 

How many hours have you poured into it?

We wanted to get our website out there as soon as possible, and so there was a span of two days when we all spent basically the whole day working on the project. After that, we are adding in more sites and updating data as they come in! 

What’s been the response and traffic so far?

Much more than we expected! We’ve had 3,300 page views during our first week with thousands of users across most states in the United States. In addition, the demographics of our users span the entire spectrum from young to old. Also, we were glad to find that the states with the most users were also the states with the steepest curves. In other words, those who need our website the most are getting onto it! 

How are you coping with spring “quaran-term” and being away from Exeter? 

It is obviously very necessary that we are taking all measures to help flatten the curve, and unfortunately this involves not going to school. But I have enjoyed online classes thus far! It’s not always been the easiest to join live classes given the time zone, but most of my teachers allotted alternative times from their schedule for us to chat, which I am extremely grateful for!