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Young Alumni Launch Pingry's Cutting-Edge COVID-19 Dashboard
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When it comes to navigating a global pandemic, access to timely and accurate data is essential. This became particularly clear over the summer, as Pingry's COVID-19 Task Force, led by David Fahey '99, Director of Operations, Safety & Strategic Initiatives, observed a number of higher-education institutions developing their own COVID-19 tracking "dashboards"—web pages that display real-time updates of COVID cases in a school, including individuals in isolation and quarantine; regional and state-wide statistics are often provided for comparison. 

As Mr. Fahey and the Task Force, with the support of Chief Financial and Operating Officer Olaf Weckesser P '25, brainstormed ideas for a safe return to school in the fall, they realized the benefit of creating a dashboard of Pingry's own. Over the course of several weeks last summer, the concept became a reality, and by early September, Pingry's COVID-19 Dashboard was launched. While Pingry creating its own school-specific dashboard might not come as a surprise, the fact that it was developed—and is currently maintained—by two recent Pingry graduates just might!

According to Mr. Fahey, one of the initial challenges to creating Pingry's COVID-19 dashboard was finding the talent to get this important new project off the ground. Although Pingry has its own skilled specialists in the Technology Department, their bandwidth was already stretched, requiring Mr. Fahey to think outside of the box. 

As he contemplated who he knew with the skills, integrity, and commitment to flourish in the role, the choice became obvious—Pingry alumnus Andrew (Drew) Beckmen '19. According to Mr. Fahey, "I knew Drew well as a student here, and he was captain of the Boys' Varsity Soccer Team, which I coach. I consider Drew one of Pingry's best and brightest, so when I learned that he had recently taken web development coursework, and was planning to take a gap-semester in college this fall, I reached out immediately." 

Drew was honored to be considered for the role, and he quickly accepted the challenge. No stranger to Pingry's Technology Department, Drew, a sophomore at Yale University, had previously served as a summer intern with the department, and was put in charge of developing the dashboard's back-end portal—that is, making sense of the incoming data. At the project's onset, Drew received support and guidance from not only Mr. Fahey, but also Apu, a fellow Pingry alumnus and the school's tech wizard, as well as Brad Poprik, Upper School Mathematics Teacher. 

As they discussed the project's scope, it became apparent that more help was needed, and Drew immediately recommended one of his former Pingry classmates and friends, Jeff Xiao '19. Jeff, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania, who is taking classes remotely, agreed to join the dashboard's development team. He assumed responsibility for the project's front-end, or public-facing elements—the way in which the data is displayed. 

Pingry's COVID-19 dashboard includes both back-end and front-facing systems that report important data, such as the number of weekly COVID-19 testing kits administered at Pingry (and corresponding positive results from each testing cycle), percentage of students and employees in isolation or quarantine, and infection rates in nearby counties where Pingry students live, among other statistics. The goal of the dashboard is to provide timely and transparent updates about COVID-19 cases; it is updated daily by 8:00 a.m. Although the daily maintenance required now is minimal (according to Jeff, one to two hours a week), at the beginning of the project, both Jeff and Drew were each spending upwards of 20 hours per week on the development phase. 

The time investment was worth it, though, and according to Drew, "It's really unique for people our age to get to work on a project like this; we're not just 'playing around with computer models.' This project is live and it's critical that it works correctly since there's little margin for error."

Jeff is in agreement with Drew's sentiments, and describes this project as the biggest learning experience he's ever had. Although Jeff had taken some web development coursework in college, he considers himself mostly self-taught, learning primarily on the fly through watching online videos. This project has also helped him realize how much he enjoys web development, and has helped confirm his interest in technology for a future career. "This process has been incredible! We've been involved with everything from the beginning to the end, which isn't typical. I knew I was interested in web development before working on this project, but now I know I want to continue down this path in the future."

Drew and Jeff have also been motivated by the opportunity to give back to the Pingry community. It's not every day that two college-age students are responsible for designing an invaluable tracking system that impacts more than a thousand others. According to Jeff, "It's a great feeling to know we built something that is helping Pingry families stay informed and safe." Drew adds, "There's nothing more important than staying informed. It feels great to be a part of this, contributing in a way that helps students and employees stay safe." 
 

Contact: Dina Glasofer, Communications and Admission Associate, dglasofer@pingry.org