Calling all makers: The UN wants you to help protect the world from COVID-19

Calling all makers: The UN wants you to help protect the world from COVID-19

The COVID-19 Detect and Protect challenge is open to devs, engineers, designers, hackers, and anyone else who has novel ideas to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the hacking community site to launch the COVID-19 Detect and Protect Challenge, aiming to bring “hardware and software developers, product designers, scientists, hackers, makers, and innovators and inventors…together to work for those who will be hardest hit by this pandemic.”

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Along with the UNDP and are 12 major tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, and NVIDIA, that have signed on to provide sponsorship, prizes, hardware, and design support to the 10 eventual winners.

It’s unknown where the winning projects will be deployed, but the language on the challenge’s website, coupled with the UNDP’s mission, suggest the detection and prevention innovations will go to countries considered underdeveloped, or more in need of aid.

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The challenge is designed to to create products, either physical or digital, that meet its three “priority actions:”

  1. “Design replicable, low-cost tools to aid in coronavirus detection;”
  2. “Flatten the curve in communities with preventive solutions;”
  3. “Reduce the disease’s impact on economies of these vulnerable areas.”

Adam Benzion, co-founder of, said the challenge will capitalize on the skills and capabilities of developers and partners “to bring forward some truly unique solutions that could make a real impact on the global fight against COVID-19.” 

COVID-19 detection 

The first of two product categories in the challenge, detection, can encompass anything that makes it easier to detect COVID-19 to diagnose patients and prevent future outbreaks.

“Computer vision thermometers, smart oximeters, cloud-based heatmaps and apps, data science-backed insight, open source hardware, or advanced computational models—all are welcome,” the challenge website states.

COVID-19 prevention

Anything that has the result of slowing the spread of COVID-19, apparatus or software, falls into the prevention category.

The challenge website mentions just a few ideas: “3D-printable protective equipment, easy-to-assemble hand sanitizing dispensers, public alerts, mass broadcasting tools, contamination monitoring, rapid face mask production with advanced or everyday materials—there are no limits.”

How to enter the COVID-19 Detect and Protect Challenge

Interested programmers, hardware engineers, inventors, makers, designers, and anyone else who’s curious can learn more about the challenge at’s challenge page, which is also where ideas can be submitted.

Entries will be accepted on a rolling basis through summer 2020, though no firm end date has been set. Those interested should start planning now.

The 10 winning projects will receive a Global UNDP Innovator Award, which includes a recognition badge and certificate, a $1,000 Visa gift card, and a drone kit parent company Avnet will also be providing winners with support to reduce time to market, along with engineering, design, and manufacturing support.

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