IBM launches ‘university edition’ coronavirus challenge

University students are being invited to develop solutions for the pandemic and climate change as part of IBM's annual “Call for Code” competition.
IBM Watson SOC
(IBMphoto24 / Flickr)

IBM announced on Thursday that its annual “Call for Code” competition, designed to rally technologists and non-technologists alike to solve humanitarian challenges, will this year include a special “university edition.” Through a partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative University, a year-round leadership development program, this year’s challenge invites university students to find solutions that can help the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

IBM will host a kick-off event on April 22, which is to be streamed live on Twitch, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and IBM Watson Media. The technology giant is inviting students to participate in workshops on design thinking and how to use “COVID-19 starter kits” to build submissions for the challenge, as they compete for a $10,000 grand prize. The grand-prize and runner-up winners will also get a chance to interview for jobs at IBM.

The “university edition” of the challenge also includes office hours, hackathons and virtual workshops like the ones held during the kick-off event to help students get oriented. According to an IBM announcement, several universities have already partnered with the program, including Cornell University, Middlebury College, Georgia Tech, Miami Dade College, Arizona State University, Southern Methodist University and UC Berkeley.

In addition to receiving cash prizes and a chance to interview, winners who present the most promising solutions will also receive a chance to further develop their technologies through IBM’s Code and Response program, which has spawned open-source projects like the mesh-network technology Project Owl and DroneAid, a visual-recognition system that scans for SOS signals from aerial drones.


Also participating in the challenge is a digital innovation class at San Jose State University, where IBM employees are mentoring students who are building solutions to fight COVID-19 that are powered by IBM Watson, the famous question-answering system.

The deadline for submissions is July 31. Submissions sent by April 27 will be considered as one of the top three initial ideas at IBM’s annual Think event in May.

Colin Wood

Written by Colin Wood

Colin Wood is the editor in chief of StateScoop and EdScoop. He’s reported on government information technology policy for more than a decade, on topics including cybersecurity, IT governance and public safety.

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