Thursday, April 23, 2015

5 UCSD Teams Named Finalists of the San Diego Social Innovation Challenge

There are only 16 total teams left in the running for the University of San Diego’s Social Innovation Challenge and the remaining teams have been divided into two tracks: USD and San Diego-wide. Of the eight teams in the San Diego-wide track, five teams hail from UC San Diego. We are proud to share the continued accomplishments of Bystanders to Upstanders, Combatting HIV Transmittance in Mozambique - Africa, Evocado, People’s Potty Project (3P) and VivaScope.
In the final round, the teams are perfecting their 6-minute pitches on their social innovation projects. The teams will present to a live panel of judges next Tuesday, April 28 and the recipients of seed funding prizes will be announced at the awards ceremony held on May 1. At the awards ceremony, all contestants will present a 90-second fast pitch of their project to the San Diego social innovation community.
“The Social Innovation Challenge is looking to fund projects with social impact and a sustainable model,” said Bystanders to Upstanders (B2U) CEO Sneha Jayaprakash.
Jayaprakash founded Bystanders to Upstanders with the mission to make volunteer work more efficient through personifying, localizing and gamifying community service. Since Jayaprakash began her company, B2U has pivoted from a non-profit to a for-profit model focusing on encouraging volunteer work in corporate settings.
Jayaprakash explained that between each round, the Social Innovation Challenge holds Idea labs, each with a different agenda to continue developing their projects and their pitches.
While she mentioned that some lessons have overlapped with tips and training received from the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and the Rady School of Management’s joint incubator mystartupxx, Jayaprakash also believes that the competition has been helpful in working out the finer points of her team’s business model and crafting a balanced presentation.
“The actual pitch needs to appeal to broad audience, it needs to make sense to the social good side, the business and marketing side…” Jayaprakash explained. “Each sector has different things that they want to see, and crafting a pitch that speaks to each sector is the challenge.”
Kirk Hutchinson of VivaScope recommends the experience and says that the competition is a chance to practice communicating your passion to strangers, a key to any successful humanitarian project. VivaScope is a Global Teams in Engineering Service team partnered with the student organization, Engineering World Health. Their project seeks to expand the availability of viral load testing by reducing costs that prevent millions from receiving the care they need.
“We’re used to explaining the technology and convincing our audience that the science behind our idea will work,” said Hutchinson. “For our six minute pitch, we’ve been told to spend only a minute on our technology and then focus on the social impact and how it will work in the market.”
Receiving award funding is the cherry on top of the learning experience.

“Our goal is to have multiple prototypes working by next quarter and to test them in the field,” said Hutchinson. “We want to send them to Mexico and Mozambique, see how they fare and hopefully distribute them.”

Next Tuesday, the live pitches will be open to the public. To find out more information on how to attend the final round or RSVP for the awards ceremony, click here.

This amazing autonomous robot tracks and follows an RC copter

A team of undergraduate computer science students completed their final project for their CSE 190 class, taught by alum Chris Barngrover: an autonomous robot that follows a remote-controlled helicopter around.
They started off with a TurtleBot, a low cost personal robot kit equipped with open source software. The robot includes a Kinect and a netbook. Students used the open-source Robot Operating Software to program its tasks.
The students are: Frank Bogart, Mike Lara, James Lee and Kenny Yokoyama. 
We're impressed with the results!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Research Expo 2015 Wrap-Up: And the poster awards go to…

Research Expo 2015 took place Thursday April 16, 2015 and featured a poster session, faculty lightning talks, and an award ceremony and networking reception. The event was a success, thanks to our judges, sponsors and the Jacobs School faculty, staff, and students. As a way to recognize the hard work of the graduate students who presented a poster at the event, a grand prize and the Rudee Outstanding Poster Award was presented to the poster deemed “best in show” by the judges.  In addition, smaller prizes and awards were given to the presenters of one poster in each department who were able to articulate the meaning of their research extraordinarily well.

The Rudee Outstanding Poster Award


Student(s): Jinxing Li
Professor(s): Joseph Wang | Liangfang Zhang 

Jinxing Li, Best Overall Poster, Rudee Research Expo Award, 2015

The winners of the Best Poster Awards from the departments are:

Bioengineering Best Poster


Student(s): Ivneet Singh Bhullar
Professor(s): Shyni Varghese 

Ivneet Singh Bhullar, Bioengineering Best Poster Award Winner

Computer Science and Engineering Best Poster


Student(s): Narendran Thangarajan
Professor(s): Nadir Weibel 

Narendran Thangarajan, Computer Science and Engineering
Best Poster Award

Electrical and Computer Engineering Best Poster


Student(s): Minu Mariam Jacob
Professor(s): Daniel F. Sievenpiper

Minu Mariam Jacob, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Best Poster Award Winner

Katie Osterday Best Poster Award Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Student(s): Michael Brian Frank | Tsuk Haroush | Sze Hei Siu | Jerry Ng | Ivan Torres
Professor(s): Joanna M. McKittrick 

Michael Frank, Katie Osterday Best Poster Award,
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Winner

NanoEngineering Best Poster


Student(s): Jinxing Li
Professor(s): Joseph Wang | Liangfang Zhang 

Jinxing Li, NanoEngineering Best Poster Award Winner

Structural Engineering Best Poster


Student(s): Alireza Sarebanha
Professor(s): Gilberto Mosqueda 

Alireza Sarebanha, Structural Engineering Best Poster Award Winner

Honorable Mentions


Science and Engineering Library Award for Best Use of the Literature

Congratulations to all of our winners, and to all who presented a poster at Research Expo 2015!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Meet the Engineers of Tomorrow: Michael Frank and Steven Naleway

Research Expo is this Thursday, April 16. So far in our Meet the Engineers of Tomorrow series, we’ve introduced you to two of the engineering graduate students that are presenting a poster at this year’s event: Oscar Beijbom, with a poster titled “Automated annotation of coral reef survey images” and Vineet Pandey who’s poster is titled, “Connecting stories and learning objectives increases participant motivation in online discussions”.

In this, our final post leading up to Research Expo 2015, Michael Frank and Steven Naleway describe the wonders that lie at the intersection of biology and design.

Michael Frank
“When I first started in Joanna McKittrick’s lab, I was really interested in materials science,” said Michael Frank, materials science and engineering PhD student at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “But she kept saying to me, ‘When are you going to pick your animal?’.”

Everyone in the McKittrick lab has to have an animal – meaning they should each be studying and analyzing the structure and mechanical behavior of natural biological materials like shells, bones, teeth and tusks for design applications.

“Professor McKittrick often collaborates with Scripps Institution of Oceanography,” said Frank. “We had the opportunity to participate in a research cruise. It was there that I met Kirk Sato, who studies sea urchins – I finally had my animal.”

According to Frank, sea urchins are fascinating because of their versatile mouthparts – an apparatus termed Aristotle’s Lantern – which allows them to persist at different depths.

“Aristotle is known for his philosophy, but many people don’t know that he also wrote several books about the natural sciences,” said Frank. “In one of these, he described the mouth parts of a sea urchin as ‘a horn lantern with the panes of horn left out’.”
It actually looks more like “The Claw” from Toy Story. Urchins have conquered most sea habitats because their mouthparts allow them to be incredibly precise when taking in food, much like a claw is able to grab an item out of a vending machine.

“The idea for my bioinspired design project came to me one night during a local news broadcast,” said Frank. “It was an update on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover, and I noticed two things: first, that the apparatus used to collect samples from the surface of Mars is a shovel and second, that the rover was having some issues surveying the planet to collect samples because the wheels were punctured by sharp rocks. If we could create many smaller rovers that could collect samples in a manner similar to the way urchins take in food, it would enable a much more efficient and precise sampling method.”

Frank and his colleagues outsourced the prototyping of their design to a team of students in the MAE 156 capstone design course for seniors. He and his colleagues then attached the bioinspired sampler to a rover for testing on the beach and again with Mars simulant provided by professor of structural engineering Yu Qiao’s group.

Frank hopes to be able to see NASA adopt the design. He says that the Rady School of Business at UC San Diego has opened his eyes to startups and entrepreneurship, and he’d like to see it through.

“The apparatus is very efficient because it opens as it extends and closes as it returns,” said Steven Naleway, also a materials science and engineering PhD candidate at the Jacobs School of Engineering. “That’s one motion instead of two. NASA could really increase the efficiency with which the Mars Rover collects samples by incorporating the design.”

While Naleway is an author on the poster (titled “Microstructure and bioinspired application of Aristotle’s Lantern: Urchins from the Sea to Mars”), he has his own bioinspired research – box fish armor.

Steven Naleway
“Most fish decide to articulate their scales, but the box fish doesn’t,” said Naleway. “Why is that? Instead of articulation, which allows for complete coverage of the body by eliminating interfaces, the boxfish employs a complex interdigitating suture pattern in between its scales (known as scutes). I am interested in the mechanical advantages these sutures provide.”

In addition to their work on Aristotle’s Lantern, Frank and Naleway will both present posters at Research Expo on freeze casting – a physical process using the directional freezing of water to make porous scaffolds similar to the spongy layer of bone and a number of other biological materials. Naleway will present a poster titled “Easing the fabrication of bioinspired composites through the use of clathrate hydrates in freeze casting” and Frank will present on “Magnetic freeze casting: porous scaffolds bio-inspired by bone”.

Don’t miss these great posters – there’s still time to register for Research Expo at

Monday, April 13, 2015

Building a Race Car: UC San Diego Student Engineers in Action

Student filmmaker will tell the story in documentary

In 1997, a group of engineering students from the University of California, San Diego heard about the Formula SAE competition – a student design competition organized by SAE International (formerly Society of Automotive Engineers). The idea behind the competition is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small formula-style race car, which will be evaluated for its potential as a production item.

Intrigued by the challenge, the student group gathered in a garage and put their textbook knowledge to work. With the completion of a race car built from scratch, Triton Racing was born.

TR-14, the 2014 Triton Racing car
Triton Racing is UC San Diego’s Formula SAE team, and it continues to produce cutting-edge race cars for the annual Formula SAE competition, held this year at Lincoln Airpark in Lincoln, Nebraska June 17-20, 2015.

The competition tests the ability of the students to apply their engineering knowledge and encompasses all aspects of the automotive industry including research, design, manufacturing, testing, developing, marketing, management and finances.

The student-led group at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering grows in numbers and knowledge each year.

Nathaniel Goldberg, a sophomore mechanical engineering student and Director of Public Relations for the team, felt that the process of taking a car from production to competition should be documented on film. He and his teammates are making that happen.

“In a conversation with some of the other guys last year, we realized that we have a story to tell,” said Goldberg. ”We want to share that story with as many people as possible, so we decided to make a documentary.”

With the production of the 2015 car already underway, Goldberg is bringing in filmmaker and UC San Diego student Keita Funakawa to begin work on what he hopes will be an invaluable documentary.

“This year’s car is going to be highly competitive, which is one reason we want to film the process leading up to competition.” said Goldberg.

Want to know why? Check out the unique design of the 2015 car, TR-15, on the Jacobs School website!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Jacobs School Ph.D. student recognized for outreach and service

Yawo Ezunkpe is one of six UC San Diego Ph.D. students to be accepted into the Bouchet Graduate Honor Society for 2014-2015. Named for the first African-American doctoral recipient in the United States, Edward Alexander Bouchet, the society seeks to develop a national network of preeminent scholars who exemplify academic excellence and foster environments that support students who are traditionally underrepresented in academia. UC San Diego was the first university on the West Coast to establish a chapter of the national organization.

Ezunkpe’s research interests include fluid mechanics and applied and computational mathematics. His dissertation focuses on stochastic analysis of fluid flows in domains whose rough surfaces are modeled as random fields. His work addresses some of the unresolved theoretical and practical questions concerning differential equations defined on random domains. It has significant impact on biological flows and could be extended to other areas where surface roughness affects fluid flows, such as environmental engineering and nanoscale devices.

Click here for a list of all of this year's UC San Diego honorees

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

6 Entrepreneurism & Leadership Programs Teams Advanced to USD Social Innovation Challenge Semi-Finals

Last month, 17 UC San Diego teams advanced to the semi-finals of the Social Innovation Challenge hosted by the University of San Diego Center for Peace and Commerce. We are proud to announce that six out of those 17 teams hail from the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Entrepreneurism and Leadership programs. Bystanders to Upstanders, CaroSoul, Fiji Kindergarten Project, One Village Philippines, VivaScope and Wastelights await the announcement of the teams to compete in the final round at the end of this week.

The Social Innovation Challenge aims to promote, guide and support student-driven ideas to launch or contribute to social enterprises, leveraging the university’s Center for Peace and Commerce as the initiative’s catalyst and mentor. The first USD Social Innovation Challenge was held in 2011 and had 16 submitted projects. This year, the SIC received project submissions from 100 student teams, and since their first challenge in 2011, the SIC has awarded over $150,000 in cash prizes to student projects that present novel, sustainable and effective solutions for social problems. The teams that make it to the third, final round will pitch their ideas in front of a live panel of experts.

Bystanders to Upstanders developed an application that aims to effectively engage people in communities and promote volunteer work through the power of social media and game design. In their Social Innovation project, the team wrote: “the ultimate goal is to lead our users toward a more socially conscious lifestyle.” Their application hopes to localize, personalize and gamify community service, allowing “local volunteer event planners who do not have the means necessary to raise awareness for their cause [by making] events with [their] platform and reach[ing] out to a larger community than they would be able to access by themselves.” Bystanders to Upstanders is a team at Mystartupxx, a UC San Diego accelerator supported by the von Liebig Entpreneurism Center and Rady School of Management to promote female entrepreneurship.

Another Mystartupxx team, CaroSoul is a sustainable wetsuit company with a focus on decreasing landfill neoprene wetsuit waste and creating quality women’s wetsuits. Founder and CEO Caroline McCandless is a Masters student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and has been surfing since she was seven years old. Her inspiration and drive for the project is drawn from her experience and love for the natural world, as a surfer and San Diego environmentalist. McCandless explained that “Neoprene is petroleum based synthetic material that is difficult to breakdown… when it goes into landfills, it says in landfills.” CaroSoul has established a wetsuit recycling campaign with six drop-off locations in San Diego and hopes to expand its operations.

Global TIES: Fiji Kindergarten Project works to create a kindergarten center in Taveuni, Fiji out of recycled shipping containers. Project lead Cathy Yu compares the costs a sustainable center versus a traditional one, explaining that “through the use of sustainable engineering, we are able to create a kindergarten center with a composting toilet, potable sink and rainwater harvesting catchment for less than $10,000, while a normal brick and mortar kindergarten center would cost an upwards of $25,000 electricity.” Yu reflected on how the Global Teams in Engineering Service program brought their team members together, stating that without the program, the group would not have been able to connect with their client in Fiji and mobilize students from all over the university to put their education to use through a tangible project.

One Village Philippines’s project is their solar powered street lamp, a vehicle for ending poverty in Philippine communities. The team has designed the street lamp to be affordable, sustainable and reproducible for the low-income communities in the Philippines that they serve. Project lead Minh Dao told us that the team work aims to provide an environmentally-friendly and affordable lighting system to low-income communities and foster entrepreneurship within the Philippines. One Village Philippines has had on-going projects with the Global TIES program for four years now, and Dao said "we were motivated to compete in the USD Social Innovation Challenge and other social innovation competitions alike by our TIES faculty advisor, Dr. Mandy Bratton and Undergraduate Advisor, Caitlyn Smith."

VivaScope is working towards expanding the availability of viral load testing in the developing world by providing a novel system that will dramatically reduce costs for tests. VivaScope’s project tackles the costs that prevent millions of people from receiving the care that they need. Project lead Kirk Hutchison explained that VivaScope reduces costs significantly from $10,000 per machine and $20 per test to $1000 per device and $5 per test. VivaScope is a partnership between Global TIES and Engineering World Health, a UC San Diego student organization. “We are all working on this project because we truly believe in the importance of our goals and our ability to make a positive difference in the world through the application of our engineering skills,” said Hutchison.

The Wastelights team aims to eliminate waste by converting it into a source of energy—making sewage into electricity and kitchen waste into biofuel and biochar. Wastelights, led by Joyce Sunday, hopes to create three different types of systems: small, medium and large for portable, home and power grid units. The team has already created a basic prototype and is supported by the Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship and the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center. Wastelights has also completed the NSF I-Corps Program.

Congratulations to our teams on their accomplishments! We are so proud of their social innovation projects and we wish them luck in advancing to the finals!