Competition seeks solutions to opioid crisis in the numbers

opioid crisisA Virginia Tech-sponsored competition bringing together student and professional teams aims to generate novel solutions to the ongoing opioid crisis among youth by diving into the data.

Designed like a hackathon but focused on ideas rather than technology, the Opioid Datathon participants will sift through information on overdoses, crime, drug use, and education collected both locally and across the nation. The data do not identify individuals.

The competition, sponsored by the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center, connects faculty, researchers, and staff from Virginia Tech and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. They will join professionals from Carilion and other groups in the community working on the opioid crisis.

Lesa Hanlin, executive director, said, “The Roanoke Center exists, in part, to create engagement opportunities that promote positivity and connect the resources of the university with the community. This competition is a great example of how we can bring the knowledge generated by local data to bear on a significant problem in this area.”

Organizers of the event envision data-driven proposals coming from the teams’ work that might include creating an app connecting individuals to resources or a marketing campaign that addresses the stigma of addiction.

Teams, armed with data and a list of resource contacts, will be assigned a mentor from a local opioid organization two weeks before the competition. They will work to quickly develop a project and then present that idea to a panel of judges on the second day of the Feb. 22-23 competition.

Judges will select a first-, second-, and third-place team project, with each receiving a cash prize. The event will also feature research presentations, panel discussions, and information sessions with local addiction resource organizations.

The Virginia Tech Roanoke Center, situated on the seventh floor of the Roanoke Higher Education Center, is part of Outreach and International Affairs. The event is the result of a partnership with the Urgent Love Initiative of Southwest Virginia, a project spearheaded by the Prevention Council of Roanoke County. The Carilion Clinic Education Fund also helped fund the competition.

Registration is free for the public, local stakeholders, and volunteers and will be open until midnight on Feb. 15.

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