Developing a cloud-based dashboard to convey near real-time Covid-19 data
At the onset of COVID-19, Cal Poly leadership activated cross-disciplinary teams of subject matter experts, coordinated through the Emergency Operation Center (EOC), to address various aspects of the pandemic’s impact on the university. In partnership with Campus Health and Wellbeing, the Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub), powered by Amazon Web Services, joined the team to help the effort. The collaboration included participation of experts from the following disciplines and departments: the Emergency Operations Center, Campus Health and Wellbeing, Human Resources, Student Affairs, Physics, Ethical Technology, Athletics, Communications and Marketing, Information Technology Services, and campus epidemiologists.
The team initially focused on determining how Cal Poly could effectively support the health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff by assisting exposure investigators and identifying those with whom a COVID-positive person had contact. In addition, to help limit spread of the virus, the team examined modeling various scenarios of the virus spread based on housing and in-person class data of the existing campus population. While these efforts were helpful, the team was asked to pivot to help communicate the impact of the virus on the campus population. The university was inundated with questions from press and the citizens of San Luis Obispo about the student influence of the virus on community. In an effort to be transparent, the team was asked to build a public web dashboard that would communicate the number of tests and infections of students both on and off campus. Throughout this collaboration, the team underscored the importance of data privacy, consistent with relevant privacy laws and policies.
Innovation in Action
Using AWS “Working Backwards” methodologies, the DxHub worked with Campus Health and Wellbeing, University Communications and Marketing, and university epidemiologists to assess the requirements and began to design a rapid prototype of a COVID dashboard. The team focused on how to efficiently and effectively extract data from university systems to make aggregated testing data available to the Cal Poly community and general public in an easily consumable way. Based on data inputs from the university systems, the DxHub team worked closely with ITS, Student Affairs, Campus Health and Wellbeing and University Communications and Marketing to develop a coronavirus testing dashboard.
With a renewed focus on a better way to visualize the current state of the COVID-19 virus on campus, the team approached the DxHub requesting help to improve the current campus covid dashboard. The university wanted to provide a more meaningful, interactive set of graphics that could provide consumers an easy-to-understand view of infections and the on-going university testing program. Campus Health and Wellbeing was able to provide the DxHub with daily testing and infection data, and the DxHub went to work providing a mechanism to display the data. Using AWS API Gateway the DxHub team exposed a mechanism so that data could be securely sent in near real-time to the new university dashboard. That data is stored in an AWS DynamoDB table for quick recall. The system was designed to export data from the DynamoDB table to a simple JSON file that could be stored on AWS Simple Storage Service (S3) that would eventually host the HTML web page. Using Chart.js and the aggerate JSON file, the team built out a series of graphs that included daily tests, positive cases, and 7-day average positivity rate. The quick turn around and refreshed look and feel were appreciated by the university. The dashboard went live early in the Spring quarter and continues to serve as the campus’s main external facing dashboard.
By developing prototypes and iterating on design, the team collaborated to implement the Campus Dashboard, which met the needs of Cal Poly leadership to communicate testing results of on- and off-campus resident students who tested through Cal Poly Campus Health and Wellbeing and the university’s ongoing testing program, as well as on-campus resident students who have tested positive via off-campus testing sites. The use of AWS cloud services enabled the team to quickly prototype and build a web-based dashboard that scaled to meet the demands quickly and effectively. Throughout this collaboration, the Cal Poly cross-disciplinary team tapped relevant expertise to nimbly address and identify solutions related to assist the campus response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
About the DxHub
Cal Poly’s Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) was one of the earliest collaborations between Amazon Web Services (AWS) and an educational institution focused on innovation and digital transformation. While providing students with real-world learning experiences, the DxHub applies proven innovation methodologies in combination with the deep subject matter expertise of the public sector and the technical expertise of AWS to solve challenging problems in ways not contemplated before. For more information, visit dxhub.calpoly.edu.