The Daily Tar Heel profiles Reese Innovation Lab app that tracks students’ COVID-19 testing compliance

The Daily Tar Heel profiled the HallPass app, a web application built by UNC Hussman’s Reese Innovation Lab, being used by students to schedule tests and ensure that they're in compliance with university COVID-19 testing policies. Read the full story here and below.


Reese Innovation Lab helps students track COVID-19 testing compliance

Kaitlyn Dang, The Daily Tar Heel, February 2nd, 2021

UNC students, graduates and faculty of the Reese Innovation Lab helped develop the HallPass app that has been central to the University's spring testing requirements.

The lab developed and tracks the user experience for HallPass this semester in order to help students meet testing requirements.

The Reese Innovation Lab in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media developed the feature on HallPass — a website that assists students in the Carolina Together Testing Program. At the beginning of the semester, students experienced difficulties due to the glitches with HallPass, but those have since been resolved.

The lab specializes in improving education and storytelling through technology.

Steven King, a professor in the Hussman School and director and chief innovation officer for the lab, said the feature was developed to help with the flow of students and faculty on campus and to ensure safety and compliance among campus community members this semester.

"The lab has done a lot of work for and with the University in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as creating the health greeter kiosks, which utilize computer vision and artificial intelligence to detect if people are wearing a mask and social distancing," King said.

King said he and his team — with the help of Michael Barker, chief information officer of the University’s Information Technology Services — built some of the back-end features that interact with Campus Health. These reporting features, which relay compliance information, do not hold any student information, per FERPA guidelines.

“Working with the Reese Innovation Lab was wonderful for us,” Barker said. “They took on a portion of the work that was carried out so well that we could focus and deliver on all of that data and information flow. It was just an essential contribution.”

Natalie Huggins, a senior double majoring in computer science and media and journalism, said she is a front-end developer for the Reese Innovation Lab and was with King when he pitched the idea to help develop a feature for HallPass.

“This is an insane project that I would be so grateful to be working on because it has the potential to touch everybody this year,” Huggins said.

Members of the lab also designed the entrance signs for campus buildings to help direct on-campus traffic as part of the Carolina Together Testing Program, Huggins said.

Daniel Sanchez, a 2019 graduate and full-time team member for the Reese Innovation Lab, is one of the senior developers that worked on the back-end technology of HallPass.  He said he was able to see how the app and the data collection from the students and faculty that use the app functions overall.

“It was a nearly overwhelming task to accomplish, but it's wonderful and is a really significant achievement," Sanchez said. "I'm very proud to work with all of these people in order to help carry it out.”