The coronavirus requires a substantial degree of discipline from the population in order to "flatten the curve".  An infectious disease is a highly self-reinforcing system.  The dynamics can be tough to grasp with, and portions of the population are beginning to relax on some of the important mechanisms that need to be protected (such as social distancing).  This project was inspired by the challenge of providing a more graspable demonstration of how our actions can affect those around us.

What it does

Infection in Nowhereton follows the fine citizens of Nowhereton as they navigate about their simple lives.  Each day, they go to work, may go shopping, or go out for fun.  One resident starts with an infectious disease, and we can watch how the movement of the citizens can spread the virus.  The user can experiment with different scenarios (both good and bad) - such as enacting a quarantine or overwhelming the hospital.  By visually watching the infection spread throughout the town, Infection in Nowhereton aims to educate visitors on how the "curve" works.

How I built it

This was built using Javascript, in combination with a custom visualization framework and concepts of system dynamics.

Challenges I ran into

Scaling and attempting to convey my point while also working to make it usable on less powerful machines or smaller resolutions has proven to be a challenge.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

I'm happy with the underlying model which is followed.  The surface product may seem to be a simplified animation, but underneath is a population with varying age groups, risk factors, and logic to determine probability of transmission  while at a location within Nowhereton.

What I learned

As a systems' engineer, the underlying model was a fairly basic one in terms of attempting to describe a social system.  What I learned in this project was the importance of streamlining code so it is intuitive to follow - otherwise, as it's proven itself to me quite a few times - it's easy to get stuck when there are many moving parts (particularly in a case of high interdependence, like a model).

Also, I've never joined a hackathon before.  It's great to see so many people offering their time and talents to address a global health issue.

What's next for Infection in Nowhereton

There are many other parameters that could be tweaked in the simulation.  Given the resources and time, I'd like to open up more advanced tuning options and smarter feedback with each run (as to outline some of the main features of each result).

Try It out




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