COVID-19 Data Challenge Project Continues to Benefit Texas Classrooms

A few months ago, the West Big Data Innovation Hub teamed with the Border Solutions Alliance for the COVID-19 Data Challenge to broaden awareness of pandemic risk levels among border communities. One of the teams consisted of graduate students from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and their project has been used by an array of citizens throughout the state to assess the probability of exposure to COVID-19 in school classrooms. 

“Our project was developed as a web-based map system that shows real-time COVID-19 cases in each county in Texas and assesses the probability that students are exposed to the virus under a specific ventilation efficiency, classroom size, and number of students in each classroom,” explained YoungHyun Koo, a PhD student in the Environmental Science and Engineering Department at UTSA. “Our goal was to let parents or teachers know the risks associated with sending children to school amidst a pandemic and we have discovered that many people are using this tool to make decisions.”

Koo (left) worked closely with Jullian Williams (right), a doctoral student in Environmental Science and Engineering at UTSA, and Bethsanie Sanchez, a master student in Curriculum and Instruction at UTSA.

While Koo has been focused on the COVID-19 Assessment Dashboard, Williams and Sanchez created another tool to increase awareness of the pandemic among their border community and beyond. That is, they developed a story map called Assessment of COVID-19 Risk in Texan Classrooms that provides data communication that is clear, concise, and effective in both English and Spanish.

Both the COVID-19 Assessment Dashboard (shown here) and the story map were presented at the COVID-19 Data Challenge in 2020. The presentation (linked below) is available online at

“The organizing committee, mentors, and judges were astounded by the relevant, creative, and rigorous approaches to use data to make decisions in a COVID-19 context. Teams from across the US and Mexico answered the call to consider challenges in our US-Mexico border communities.” said Christine Kirkpatrick, West Hub co-executive director. “This UTSA team is one example of a creative approach to using data integration and visualization techniques from data science to bring together environmental science, epidemiology, and education studies. The UTSA and the other teams are to be commended for their selfless volunteer efforts to use their talents for societal benefit;  it made me recognize that we are in good hands when it comes time for the younger generations to inherit the world.”

About the West Big Data Innovation Hub: The West Big Data Innovation Hub is one of four regional hubs funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to build and strengthen strategic partnerships across industry, academia, nonprofits, and government. The West Hub community aims to catalyze and scale data science for societal needs – connecting research, education, and practice in thematic areas such as natural resources and hazards, metro data science, health, and data-enabled discovery and learning. Coordinated by UC Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the University of Washington, the West Hub region includes contributors and data enthusiasts from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and a global network of partners.