Developing COVID-19 Solutions From the Ground Up

For the Bay Area Science Festival this year we consider how international organizations inspire local communities to come together and create solutions for their own challenges.

Image by CodeVSCovid19

Event Details


Online Event


Saturday, October 24, 2020
09:00am to 10:30am in San Francisco 06:00pm to 07:30pm in Switzerland


Free. RSVP Below.

Swiss and American universities initiate projects that collaborate with citizens, communities, government associations, and corporations. With the common goal to find solutions for location-specific problems arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, they come together to share their learnings and insights on working with different communities. This event connects the Swiss hackathon scene to a local Stanford University initiative, focusing the discussion around how communities have (and continue) to participate in creating more resilient responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in a digital age. During the event, the audience is invited to participate in the process and share their unique pandemic experiences. Responses will then be shared as a tool for participants to create their own grass roots solutions specific to their local communities.

Swiss organization HackZurich has built the largest European hackathon over the course of the last few years. In March, they organized #CodeVsCOVID19 along with the Zurich-based University ETH. The hackathon focused specifically on finding solutions for the most pressing problems that COVID-19 had created in Switzerland. They brought together several thousand participants and matched them with over 100 mentors in the field of medicine, epidemiology, etc. For this event we are joined by Setareh Gharibi, Project Lead of Digital Festival & HackZurich.

Stanford University’s Future Bay Initiative was developed to help local communities in the Bay Area better cope with environmental problems. This year the students were tasked with finding solutions for COVID-19-related problems that were identified by the local community. For this program, we are joined by Cansu Culha who headed the modeling group that investigated the benefits of COVID-19 contract tracing by using data that was provided by local corporate tech partners.

The event will take place on Remo. To ensure the best event experience, please make sure to:

  • Join from a laptop ideally. If that is not an option, join from a tablet. If that is not an option, you can join from a mobile phone, but you might experience bugs because the mobile version is still in beta.
  • Remo works best on Google Chrome (best) or on Firefox (second best), try to avoid other browsers if possible.
  • Depending on where you are, there may be local restrictions and you may have to use a VPN to connect.


San Francisco
09:00am — Introduction by Mary Ellyn Johnson, Head of Exhibitions at swissnex San Francisco
09:10am — Presentation of HackZurich and Stanford Bay Area Initiative
09:30am — Breakout sessions
09:45am — Sharing group insights and identifying steps forward

10:15am — Q&A with audience
10:30am — Conclusion

06:00pm — Introduction by Mary Ellyn Johnson, Head of Exhibitions at swissnex San Francisco
06:10pm — Presentation of HackZurich and Stanford Bay Area Initiative
06:30pm — Breakout sessions
06:45pm — Sharing group insights and identifying steps forward
07:15am — Q&A with audience
07:30am — Conclusion


Mary Ellyn Johnson
Head of Exhibitions at swissnex San Francisco, Mary Ellyn previously worked at the San Francisco Art Institute as a curator and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis as a research librarian. She has masters degrees in both Art History (Richmond University, London) and Cultural Studies (University of London, Birkbeck College, London Consortium). Her main interests are contemporary art at the nexus of research and education, Film and all things Scandinavian.



Cansu Culha
Cansu is a PhD candidate in the Geophysics Department at Stanford. She uses computational modeling techniques to model fluid and thermodynamic processes governing natural disasters for her PhD. At the start of the global lockdown, she helped redesign Stanford Future Bay Initiative to virtually and rapidly address main issues posed by local government agencies in tackling COVID-19. Outside of her passion for research and teaching, she investigates alternative and creative ways to communicate science through her organization called Art-SCI.

Setareh Gharibi

In 2016, Setareh joined HackZurich, which is now Europe’s most renowned hackathon, and the Digital Festival during its founding in 2016. Today, the Digital Festival is a successful and well-known hub for CEOs, decision-makers, and tech talents in Switzerland. In 2020 Setareh joined the #CodeVsCOVID19 team to launch a 72 hours non-profit online hackathon, with 3000 participants from around the world, to develop prototypes to fight the COVID-19 crisis. Before this, she was developing programs to support gender equality and career development for young academics at the Career Services of the University of Zurich for several years, and supported women’s counseling for women affected by sexual and/or domestic violence. Setareh has a Master of Social Sciences from the University of Zurich and a background in Cultural Studies and Cultural Analysis.  She is currently studying at ETH Zurich for a Master of Advanced Studies in Management, Technology, and Economics.