UMB Research

USM COVID App Challenge

UPDATE: The USM COVID Research & Innovation Task Force announced the six winning teams for the USM COVID App Challenge, a competition that encouraged the USM community to develop innovative mobile app solutions to problems caused by COVID-19. The application period ended on June 28, 2020, and the winners were announced on July 9, 2020.

Click here to read the full press release announcing the winners.

USM COVID App Challenge

The USM COVID Research & Innovation Task Force is inviting the USM community to participate in the USM COVID App Challenge competition. Participating teams will develop mobile application solutions that help bring Marylanders together to more effectively respond to COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Solutions can include apps designed to:

  • Support first responders/healthcare workers, educators, or other essential personnel;
  • Enable a safe return to social interaction and work;
  • Connect Marylanders with needed services and resources; or in
  • Help Marylanders to emerge from this crisis more united and stronger.


Entries can be submitted under one of the following tracks. Questions about eligibility? Email

  • USM Student Teams – Teams made entirely or predominantly of students, including graduate students and business, medical, law, and other professional students.

  • USM Community Teams – Teams that include USM faculty, staff, or postdoctoral researchers. Individuals affiliated with startup companies and small businesses located in USM incubators and research parks are also eligible. Any of these teams may also include students.

Entry Requirements

We need to be able to see the app AND understand what problem it is solving or opportunity it is creating. Entries should:

  • Demonstrate the App – Link to a 3-minute (maximum) video showing the app and how it functions (optional: send a link to the code on the app store)

  • Explain the App’s Usefulness – Answer a few questions about who will use the app and how it will help them (optional: provide presentation that addresses the questions)


Judges will include members of the USM community, tech corporations and local companies, and entrepreneurial advisors from across the USM. Entries will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Functionality and Feasibility – Does it work as intended? Could the app be used easily by the intended group?

  • Innovation – Does the team have insight into the problem or opportunity? Is the solution innovative?

  • Impact – What is the scale of the potential impact? Are the intended users or beneficiaries likely to use the app?


Six cash prizes of $3,000 will be awarded, with three awards in the USM Student Teams category and three awards in the USM Community Teams category. Challenge winners and runners up will have the opportunity to receive AWS credits.


  • Application Opens – Monday, June 8th at noon (EDT)

  • Application Closes – Sunday, June 28th at midnight (EDT) 

  • Winners Announced – Tuesday, July 7th at noon (EDT)

Technical Resources

  • AWS COVID-19 Data Lake – Amazon Web Services has centralized curated datasets focused on the novel coronavirus. Learn More.

  • IBM COVID-19 Starter Kits and More Data – IBM, Inc., has provided starter kits and other development resources as part of their Call for Code. Learn More.

  • MIT App Inventor – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has centralized general app development resources as part of the MIT App Inventor platform. Learn More.

Non-Technical Resources

  • Startup Shell Makeathon – The Startup Shell, a student-run incubator at the University of Maryland, College Park, is hosting a two-week makeathon starting June 6th and will feature a COVID Challenge. We encourage eligible participants an excellent lead-in to submission to this USM COVID App Challenge.

  • Team Matchmaking – Do you have an idea but are looking for development help? Or, are you a developer looking to support others with ideas? Let us know!

  • Mentoring – Are you looking for some advice and mentorship? Let us know!

Get Involved

  • Support the Challenge Are you interested in supporting the USM COVID App Challenge? Get in touch at We are happy to discuss how you can help us provide even more mentorship and resources to the participants.

  • Propose a Topic – Are you part of a community, organization, or other group of people who could be positively impacted by the development of an app by USM students and/or the greater USM community? Get in touch at

Thanks to Our Sponsors

Thank you to the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship at UMBC for contributing funding for the prizes.

Alex Brown Center for Entrepreneurship

Thank you to the WWPS Startups and Venture Capital team at Amazon Web Services for their support in providing technical resources and mentoring to competitors. Participants may leverage the AWS-hosted COVID-19 data lake that is composed of multiple sources of data, in addition to other training, tools, and mentorship. AWS will also offer challenge winners and runners-up AWS Credits to further their development and success.

IBM is offering competition participants access to IBM Cloud accounts and COVID-19 Starter Kits, which are quick-start guides to begin creating applications tied to easy-to-understand use cases in just minutes. IBM technical experts will participate throughout the COVID App Challenge as mentors and judges. Following the USM COVID App Challenge, IBM is encouraging participants to enter the Call for Code Global Challenge. Now in its third year, Call for Code is the largest technical challenge of its kind, inviting the world's software developers and innovators to take on society’s biggest issues with open source-powered technology.

The Fine Print

  • Information Confidentiality – USM COVID App Challenge personnel will share application information with competition judges and will announce the winning team names, team members names, and short public description. Otherwise, entry information will not be shared without a team member’s permission.

  • Intellectual Property Considerations – By participating in the USM COVID App Challenge, the contestant is not granting any rights in any patents, pending patent applications, or copyrights related to the technology described in the entry. Any applicable intellectual property rights to a submission will remain with the contestant. Each submission must be original, the work of the contestant, and must not infringe, misappropriate or otherwise violate any intellectual property rights, privacy rights, or any other rights of any person or entity.
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USM experts seek opportunities to collaborate on solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. Now more than ever, partnership is critical.
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