Faculty team award for development of widely-used COVID-19 monitoring app

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the app's questionnaire helped more than 2,500 employers in Michigan meet state requirements.

Three CSE faculty who supervised a student team in the creation of a widely-used COVID-19 monitoring app have been selected to receive the College of Engineering’s Ted Kennedy Family Faculty Team Excellence Award for 2021-22. Prof. Sugih Jamin, Thurnau Prof. Elliot Soloway, and Dr. Jeff Ringenberg led a team of more than 80 undergraduate students and staff in the rapid development of a survey and dashboard web application, called MI Symptoms, that enabled thousands of Michigan businesses to stay open during the pandemic.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, the app’s questionnaire helped more than 2,500 employers in Michigan meet state requirements to screen employees before they entered the workplace each day. More than 5.6 million Michiganders built profiles and filled out the questionnaire.

An app prompt asking for the user's temperature
The MI Symptoms web application allows users to submit how they’re feeling based on a set of standardized health questions.

The data on employee symptoms provided key insight about COVID’s spread in Michigan to state and industry decision makers as well as the public during the pandemic. Employers had access to real-time employer dashboards through the web app summarizing COVID activity in their business, in addition to end-of-the-day emailed reports.

“This online tool provides up-to-date COVID-19 related information that will help state and local officials make informed decisions regarding community economic re-engagement,” said Dr. Sharon Kardia, Associate Dean of the University of Michigan School of Public Health at the time of MI Symptoms’ launch. “MI Symptoms integrates real-time data collection and analysis to aid rapid decision-making,”

As of February, 2022, the app has officially been decommissioned, with the state citing the impact of vaccines and a better understanding of the virus than at the time of the app’s initial launch.

In all, more than 80 staff, faculty members, and students from the College of Engineering, the School of Information, and the School of Public Health contributed to the app and dashboard development. Galvanized by the urgent need for pandemic decision-making, the groups worked around the clock in teams, seven days a week from April 20 until the end of May, 2020.

Jamin, Ringenberg, and Soloway recruited many of the student team members from their courses EECS 441: Mobile Development for Entrepreneurs and EECS 497: Human-Centered Software Design and Development.