Thursday, January 12, 2017

Reinventing the Wheel: Former Triton Racing members invent novel public health device

What do race cars, aerospace engineering and HIV/AIDS have in common? They all played a part in the making of FluxErgy, a medical diagnostics company started by two UC San Diego aerospace engineering alumni.
Co-founders Tej Patel (BS MS, ‘12) and Ryan Revilla (BS, ’10) have similar stories – they both came to UC San Diego for aerospace engineering, and they both saw the  Triton Racing (UC San Diego’s Formula SAE team) car parked on Library Walk one day and thought, I want to work on that!
A short time later, the two found themselves working on the next iteration of Triton Racing’s competition car together, and they became fast friends.
“Triton Racing was easily the most important thing I did during my time at UC San Diego to get hands-on experience,” said Patel. “At the time, the team was only 7-8 people, so we each had the opportunity to work on every part of the car. Ryan worked on the engine, but he also helped build the chassis.”
After graduating, both were hired by a former member of the MIT Formula SAE team to build sensors for real racecars.
After living the dream working on high-end racecars for a few years, Patel began to itch to build something that could help people.
At the time, his wife (Priya Bhat Patel, BS ‘10, Physiology and Neuroscience) was working on her masters in public health, so he set out to find a way to build a point-of-care testing device.
“I approached Ryan with the idea, and between his garage and my kitchen, we built our first prototype,” said Patel.
At first, Patel and Revilla thought they’d build a low-cost PCR machine, but they knew they wanted one platform that could perform a wide array of tests, such as viral load and blood cell count. Instead, they built a general-purpose device that uses a test card with an embedded program that tells the machine what kind of unique test to run. The device works by taking various optical and electrical measurements from the function specific test card.
By adapting the design of the test card rather than the device for each type of test, the co-founders eliminated the need for multiple machines to conduct the typical assortment of laboratory analyses. With a simple workflow and small footprint, the low cost device and test card are meant for point-of-care use locally and in low-resource settings.
“Because we came into this as engineers, we took a very different approach to the assays than a biologist would,” said Patel. “We found that there were quite a few unnecessary steps in traditional assays. We found ourselves asking, ‘do we really need to do it this way?’”
Patel and Revilla attribute this approach to their time spent at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. During that time, the Triton Racing team learned a big lesson about taking a systems level approach to building a racecar.
“The first year Ryan and I were a part of the team, we built a really complex car,” said Patel. “But because of that, we didn’t make it to the competition. We learned that you can have the fanciest, lightest wheel ever, but if the car can’t go around a turn it’s useless.”
That lesson in systems engineering has shaped the company the two built together. They have since hired six more UC San Diego graduates.
When asked what advice they have for startups, Patel and Revilla agreed that it’s best to fail early and often.
“Oftentimes, startups don’t think about scalability,” said Patel. “Our device went through nine iterations in one year in order to optimize its manufacturability.”
If you’d like to join FluxErgy’s First Access Program as a technology development partner or Beta user, please contact Find out more information at

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New solar energy "chill" spot on campus

This Friday, January 13th, UC San Diego’s Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) will be showcasing their solar projects at the site of Solar Chill, a recently finished project that is open for all the community to utilize.

The site is located between the Village and ERC housing areas, directly across the street from the Rady School of Management.  The event will take place from 12-2pm and feature the students responsible for Solar Chill and more, including SolarRoller and Solar Car.

Solar Chill is an off-grid photovoltaic structure that recently finished construction and is now open for use. The system can produce 1.5kW of electricity. This generated energy flows into a battery system that feeds the lighting for the site as well as outlets built into the on-site benches. Solar Chill was created to bring solar down from rooftops tucked away out of sight and give people a chance to directly interact with solar and see its functionality. Now that the site is up and running, it is the team’s goal to spread awareness of it so that the community knows to use it. This was the first student-designed project approved to be built on the UC San Diego campus and the team hopes it will serve as an inspiration to other student teams to implement their own creations.

The Solar Chill site is open to anyone - feel free to stop by and recharge!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Team Development Training Expands Leadership Outreach

In its eighth year of operation, the Gordon Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering has extended its reach and impact on students and working professionals through a series of interactive trainings on values and team formation.

The Gordon Center, which educates and trains effective engineering students and professionals, has expanded its team development trainings to BMES (Biomedical Engineering Society), Envision Maker Studio interns, Global Ties, NSF I-Corps and the Osaka University International group (Von Liebig Center) at the Jacobs School of Engineering. The active outreach and trainings with other organizations this fall quarter has resulted in a higher demand from students and professionals to take more leadership development workshops.

The values and team development training was truly great and inspiring. Through this workshop I learned about myself in a better and deeper way. It was kind of discovering myself. I realized what kind of person I am and want to be, what really matters to me.” Said Yuki Nagano, associate professor at Osaka University. “When we work closely in a team, we have to know and understand team members. Understanding team members is very useful and helpful to know what really matters to them. I hope we can do it again when I come back to San Diego in January.”
Through our continued outreach at the Jacobs School of Engineering more organizations have become aware of the importance and impact team leadership and formation training provides for students working on technical or innovative projects. After the trainings leaders are better able to acclimate to changes and work with more diverse teams, build better relationships and create a community among their teams. Mentors and professionals in industry that join the trainings are also aware of the valuable skills these trainings offer. According to Dr. Ebonee Williams, executive director of the Gordon Center, the number one feedback the Gordon Center receives is “Wish I had this training before starting my first company.”
Indeed, this quarter has proven to be very productive for students, professionals and the center promoting the advocacy for more leadership training. These outreach efforts have succeeded because of the responsive student participation and the positive feedback from other engineering organizations. Through the continual leadership team development trainings and outreach to organizations, we have been able to see the growth of individuals and watch them realize their potential. The Gordon Center hopes to continue its outreach to other organizations in 2017 and expand its student outreach.
If you would like more information, please email us at

VOICE Seminar on Value of Provisional Patents to Inventors

The VOICE seminar, led by Dr. Victoria Cajipe and guest Greg Einhorn.
On November 5, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and the Office of Innovation and Commercialization collaborated to present a VOICE seminar on Provisional Patents.
The room was filled with undergrads, grads, and Postdocs alike, all looking for information on how to make their ideas a reality. Victoria Cajipe, PhD, Senior Licensing Officer of the OIC, led the presentation, explaining the patent processes for UC San Diego inventors and entrepreneurs.
Greg Einhorn, from Greer Burns & Crain, a firm that works with people looking to develop patents and license their products, was there to present alongside OIC, and helped to outline the long process from idea-making to patenting.
Another important topic of the seminar was the Innovation and Commercialization Loop, a feedback loop that helps streamline the idea inventing process all the way up until commercialization, through both licensing and patenting. The loop serves as an ideal outline for inventors looking to not only make their product, but also to commercialize their product to the rest of the world.   
Cajipe also listed out the varying types of patents. Utility patents and provisional apps are all slightly different and have individualized processes, and Einhorn advised that attorneys and agencies should be utilized during the formal patenting process, despite it being quite a steep investment.
Through UC San Diego’s commercialization program, all students are eligible to consult with the OIC to try and get their ideas patented. Cajipe explained that the OIC will help finish the technical commercialization processes for the student as well as taking care of all fees for patenting; the student, in exchange, will receive 35% of potential profits from the licensed product.
“It’s important for students to recognize the resources they have on campus,” said Cajipe during the presentation. “Besides taking care of fees, we work to be a great resource to help students along the way.” 
UC San Diego prides itself on being a technologically advanced university, with numerous new patents each year being attributed to the university. Of course, none of this could be achieved without the students' brilliant minds and trailblazing creativity.

GrollTex Founder Puts Passion First

Dr. Alex Zaretski, UCSD alum and founder of GrollTex.
On November 3, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering department hosted a Ph.D alternative career path seminar featuring von Liebig alum Dr. Aliksandr (Alex) Zaretski, founder of GrollTex.
Dr. Zaretski, whose company helps to develop “graphene rolling technology”, talked about his journey from starting out as a doctoral student to gathering the courage to co-found a startup. It was his fascination of graphene and its variety of uses that led to his pursuit of his PhD in Nanoengineering at UC San Diego.  
At first, he thought academia was his future, but his passion for graphene’s exciting new tech potential directed him to pursue the entrepreneurial route. Eventually, he developed an innovative process to produce high quality “sheets” of graphene at a very low cost, without any toxic residues. Rather than write papers on the process, he wanted to explore the seemingly endless possibilities of this advanced material. With this, he co-founded a spin-off company called GrollTex, which holds exclusive rights on a portfolio of patents issued by UC San Diego. 
Dr. Zaretski stressed that it takes an immense amount of work and determination to start a company -- and that there are a lot of risks in embracing the unknown. However, being able to have a say on the future of the technology and directly shaping its direction was worth the risk to him.
When asked whether he wanted to eventually get acquired by a large company, or if he would be interested in merging with another company, he said that on less productive days, he imagines selling the company for millions. However, he still has enough drive to pursue this project on his own. “On days where it’s good, I have so much energy to go on,” he said. “I’m not at all ready yet to license to other companies, but I’ve made significant progress. We’ve signed a lease for a lab space earlier this year, and have exclusive licenses secured.”

A piece of advice he had for students was not to wait until graduation. “If you have good ideas, start as soon as you can,” he said.  

Dr. Zaretski acknowledged the von Liebig Center’s programs for helping him develop the savviness to become a successful entrepreneur, and pointing him towards resources like competitions and essential team members that would help him in starting a company. He noted that while it is important to be fluent in tech skills, having business savvy is also just as important so investors may take you seriously and believe in your product.

Grolltex is one of the von Liebig Center’s up and coming startups to watch. With initial investment funding raised, and all the needed manufacturing and testing equipment in place, GrollTex is hoping to start filling orders in 2017.

Von Liebig Partners with Biomimicry Business Accelerator

Winners Camila Hernandez (left) and Camila Gratacos (right) of Team Bionurse.

The BioNurse team from the Ceres Regional Center for Fruit and Vegetable Innovation in Chile won the first ever Ray C. Anderson Foundation Ray of Hope Prize, a $100,000 award that will allow them to introduce their soil restoration project to the marketplace.  
“This was a big surprise for us,” said Camila Gratacos, one of the BioNurse team members. “After a lot of hard work, we just want to say thank you.”
Gratacos and her partner, Camila Hernandez, competed fiercely in the 2015 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. The Biomimicry Institute is a non-profit organization that encourages the development of nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet. All seven teams vying for the prize met at the Bioneers Conference in San Rafael, California last month on October 22 to pitch to judges. During the year-long Biomimicry Accelerator program, these seven teams developed their design concepts and market strategy.
As a Biomimicry Institute partner, the von Liebig Center provided online training and mentoring to these seven teams from Chile, Thailand, El Salvador, Italy, Germany, Slovakia and the US.
The Biomimicry Institute, the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, and the von Liebig Entrepreneurship Center congratulate all of the teams who competed for the first-ever $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize. It is now only a matter of time before prototypes make their way to market soon.
All seven teams that competed for the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation Ray of Hope Prize were originally selected as finalists in the 2015 Biomimicry Global Design Challenge. The teams that participated in the intensive year-long Business Accelerator Program were trained on how to take their social innovations to market.
The von Liebig Center within the Institute of the Global Entrepreneur provided an online course taught by Mr. Jonathan Masters on customer development, commercialization, finance, and marketing.  Four mentors from the von Liebig Center worked with the seven teams in online webinars to bring their design concepts to reality. BioNurse and Oasis Aquaponics worked with Dr. Rosibel Ochoa. Jube and BioCultivator worked with Dr. Rob Logan. Living Filtration worked with Dr. Albert Liu. Hexapro and Mangrove Still worked with Mr. Jonathan Masters.  
The BioNurse team created the BioPatch, a biomimicry solution that enhances soil’s capacity to retain water, nutrients, and microorganisms. This invention ensures that degraded land is restored for the next generation of crops. 
All seven Accelerator teams earned tremendous praise from the Ray of Hope Prize judges. They complimented the Oasis Aquaponic System’s potential for impact in the developing world, the Jube’s brilliant combination of function and beauty, the BIOcultivator’s elegant design, the Mangrove Still’s innovative business model, the Living Filtration System’s clever agricultural transition strategy, and Hexagro’s successful integration of a physical technology with a broader social network strategy.
Because of the high quality of all of the teams’ designs, trustees decided to award an added bonus to this year’s program. The trustees of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation awarded $20,000 to the Oasis Aquaponic System, $15,000 to the Jube team, and $10,000 each to the four other finalist teams, for a grand total of $175,000 in award money.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pokebots Go!

It's no surprise that the theme of this quarter's Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 3 (MAE3) robot competition was Pokemon Go - students were charged with building robots that could loft balls into a laser-cut Pokestop for points. Team W.H.O. beat out more than 40 other teams to get to the semi-finals with their unique design.

The team, consisting of second year physics major John-Paul Pascual, second year political science major Alex Velazquez, second year aerospace major Goutham Marimuthu and third year mechanical engineering major Kevin Tsao, used sheet metal to create a wall that traveled along a rail and prevented the other team's robot from accessing the balls.

When one team went around the wall, team W.H.O. simply moved their robot forward and dropped the sheet metal which opened like a pair of wings to prevent the other team's robot from depositing the balls at the Pokestop. Check out their website for more on the design!

Team W.H.O. lost in the semifinals to another team with that used a blocking mechanism - one that prevented their own from working.

"We had a lot of diversity in the robots this year," said MAE3 instructor Nate Delson. "I'm proud of all of our students and mentors."

Mentors and winning teams were provided with custom, 3D-printed trophies.

Also unique to the competition this year were the controllers, designed and fabricated by summer interns in the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio, with the help of the MAE Department.