Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Year in Review: Engineers for a Sustainable World

From solar energy to water waste management, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) projects are making an impact on our planet. ESW at UC San Diego creates more sustainable, socially and economically responsible communities. ESW at UC San Diego was awarded the National ESW Chapter of the Year Award this past spring and six teams from the organization were selected to present at Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) in April 2016, including Lotus and Solar Chill.

Check out some of the 2016 projects below!


Lotus is a project aimed to clear human waste from rivers and oceans by filtering waste from rivers — all without use of external energy. This waste includes chemical waste, most commonly runoffs from urban areas, and solid waste, such as any items from garbage cans. According to Ayat Amin, a senior computer science student and leader of Lotus, this waste begins in land, moves through rivers and falls into the oceans.

“We rarely think of it this way, but the oceans are the world's biggest natural reserve, but they are quickly becoming the world's landfill,” Amin said.

Within the past two years, Lotus is almost at a fully designed solution; she hopes to design solutions for “frustrating” global problems. “It will never solve the problem entirely, but it's always a step in the right direction,” Amin told the Jacobs School of Engineering.





SIBRE is focusing on developing affordable, safer batteries that are also the most sustainable in the market. Batteries are one of the most economical forms of compact grid energy storage. In particular, the project aims to improve established zinc-based batteries as well as promote newer batteries made from high-density magnesium, aluminum, potassium, and sodium. Ryan Toh, bioengineering senior and leader of the project, notes that the team projects $60/kWh, in comparison to Tesla’s projection of $200/kWh. As the project moves forward, testing of power, capacity, life, and cycle count will take place. In addition, the effects of discharging and recharging on performance will be taken into account. Once batteries have run through the entire recharge cycle count, they will be recycled to make new batteries. Low-cost batteries have the potential to play a large part in future energy storage and rechargeables.


Solar Chill began as a solar charging station that would allow students to recharge their electric batteries while resting on sustainable seating. Structural engineering students Cyrus Jahanian and Ellen Potts were the inspiration for the project as they had seen numerous hammocks in Costa Rica, which were part of the initial design that were eventually removed.

Third year chemical engineer and ESW Outreach and Finance Solar Chill Lead, Cynthia Chan, described her experience on the team as rewarding, especially in having the opportunity to work with individuals from various backgrounds. In addition, progress on Solar Chill has been almost entirely by students.




Learn more about Engineers for a Sustainable World at UC San Diego at https://eswtritons.wordpress.com/

UC San Diego Students Fabricate Device to Protect Seniors from a Fall

The AirSave team demonstrated their device during their presentation at the electrical engineering design competition in June
Falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 and older killing more than 400,000 people each year. “This number is projected to increase due to the shift in the baby-boomer population,” said Jun Lu, a recent electrical engineering graduate of the University of California San Diego (BS ’16). “It is a common occurrence, seniors talk about how falling or the fear of falling affects their lives everyday but there is not a widely accepted solution.”

For Lu, that number became real when his great grandmother died after a fall. Together with electrical engineering graduate students Aida Shahi and Borhan Vasli (who are both specializing in machine learning), and Gabriel Frischer, a third year neuroscience major at UC San Diego, Lu created a device to protect seniors from this kind of accident.

The AirSave team took second place at the UC San Diego Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s design competition in June
The device, called the AirSave impact protection system, took second place at the UC San Diego Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s design competition in June. The competition was part of the university’s Aging and Innovation Initiative and is the result of a collaboration between the Jacobs School of Engineering and the Stein Institute for Research on Aging. The goal for the projects in the competition was to improve quality of life for senior citizens.

Read more from the San Diego Union Tribune

During their research, they found that fatal falls occur mainly due to an impact of the hip, however impacts to the spine, neck and head are also common and can be catastrophic for the seniors. “We wanted to create something all-encompassing,” said Frischer.

The device includes a set of four air bags (one protecting the neck and cranium and three around the waist for hip protection) and a CO2 cartridge from a paintball gun to inflate them just before hitting the ground.

The students are using the resources in the UC San Diego EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio to fabricate prototypes. “We used the 3D printers to fabricate the airbags and the housing for the electrical components, and other tools like the function generators,” said Lu. “It’s a collaborative space, so we were also able to come up with ideas by talking to other students.”

"The AirSave Team was in the Maker Studio nearly every hour that we were open, and it is no surprise that their hard work and dedication earned them top marks in the competition," said Jesse DeWald, the facility’s director. "I think the best part of the AirSave Team using the EnVision Maker Studio, is that they inspired the other students around them to think about these very important problems and to help them realize that they have the tools and abilities to design the solutions to the problems."

“We learned a lot about the process of designing something,” said Frischer. “The biggest lesson was that we needed to design for the people we were making the device for. Initially, we thought we wanted to create a vest, but after talking to seniors, we decided on an exoskeleton.”

AirSave "exoskeleton" design
The change came about after the students spoke with residents at the La Costa Glen retirement community in Carlsbad and similar facilities.
“Everyone has a different style,” said Frischer. “It became clear that the seniors wanted a device they could wear underneath their clothes and still be comfortable. The frame of the exoskeleton is made of impact-absorbing foam, which adds an addition layer of protection on top of the airbags. Our design is unique, light, completely concealable under the wearers clothing and highly protective.”
The AirSave system includes a sensor that collects acceleration and coordination data and determines whether the person is falling, or just bending over to pick something up.
“We’re still working to improve the algorithm,” said Lu. “It’s pretty good though – the only thing it can’t differentiate is the jumping motion.”
When the AirSave team demonstrated their device during their presentation at the electrical engineering design competition in June, Frischer performed an actual tumble while wearing an accelerometer prototype so that the audience could see the rapid acceleration data from the sensor on the screen.
“The next step is to connect the airbag inflation component to the sensing component, which requires a high voltage battery, said Lu, who plans to work on the project full time next year. “The best part is, this is only the beginning.”
You can learn more about the project and how you can get involved here.
Additional Design Competition Results
In first place was the group that developed the MightyCart, a motorized, foldable shopping cart users steer by pressing sensors on the handle, making it easier to handle heavy loads. Ryan Collins, Gannon Gesiriech, Boulos Haddad and Kevin Nematzadeh — known collectively as Fountain of Youth — took home the $4,000 top prize.
The team that took home third place at the Design Competition was Team VITA, which developed pressure-sensitive carpet tiles embedded with LED lights that light a person’s path in the dark and alert others when someone has fallen. The team members were Chao-yu Lee, Wen Li, Pushen Wang and Edward Zhong. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

High school student researchers develop early detection test for ovarian cancer

Two students in a UC San Diego bioengineering lab are on the verge of a medical breakthrough -- and they're only in high school. Meet Gitanjali and Priyanka Multani, inventors of a new test for early detection of ovarian cancer.

"We've created a blood test essentially, so it's non-invasive, easier and more cost effective," Gitanjali said. Gitanjali and Priyanka are identical twins who will be seniors at Torrey Pines High School starting this fall. They developed the technology under the tutelage of UC San Diego bioengineering professor Ratnesh Lal. Their project tied for a first place ACS Science Award at the 62nd Annual Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair on March 16, 2016.

Their story was featured on CW6 San Diego. Watch the interview and read the story here.

Update (7/13): the Multani twins and their work were also featured in the Del Mar Times.

Friday, June 17, 2016

On May 26, the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center successfully completed its third year and seventh Cohort as an NSF I-Corps site. To celebrate, the Center threw a reception for all the students, faculty, and mentors who have participated, ending the night with presentations from Spring Quarter’s 12 teams. During the final presentations, teams presented their ideas, target markets, and lessons learned from customer interviews conducted throughout the quarter.

Each of the mentors ranked the presenting teams categories of progress throughout the program, as well as quality of presentations. Each and every mentor believes that the teams have developed significantly from their initial idea pitches to their final presentations.

For example, the idea for Catalyst Technologies was initially developed in India.  Through customer discovery and market research, Lenord Melvix, the Entrepreneurial Lead, pivoted his focus from Indian to small American hydroponic farmers who were interested in seeing how his solutions could significantly cut their operation costs.

Dr. Seth Alexander of GenTag Solutions identified that designing multiple "all-in-one kits" that allow technicians to tag and capture RNA are much more useful and potentially profitable than his initial offering of a "do-it-yourself" method for clinical and academic researchers. He was able to gather this crucial information through the customer discovery process, an important tactic taught by mentors at the Center.

Armando Armillo of Saros created unique 3D Printers for community maker spaces and individual hobbyists. Through the customer discovery process,  these customer segments revealed the need for a niche quality of 3D printing between high-cost industry grade and the slower, lower-cost consumer grade 3D printing.

Saharnaz Baghdadchi of Singular Imaging, a team from the Phase II group, is developing a single-pixel imaging microscope that reduces the time and cost of stem cell tissue sample processing.  Through customer discovery, researchers confirmed that a beneficial application of the microscope is its high-definition quality, providing images of greater depth for brain imaging research.

Over the past three years, the von Liebig Center (vLC) has trained approximately 100 teams (250 student and faculty participants) in the process of starting a company using the customer discovery process and lean startup methodology.  The two-phase program has resulted in over 2,780 customer interviews conducted, and 19 teams have since filed patents, 44 teams have created prototypes, and 9 teams have gone to the NSF I-Corps Teams (National) program.

According to a survey sent out to the teams, participants revealed that the best part of the (vLC) I-Corps program was the focus on mentor relationships, the cultivation of the entrepreneurial mindset, the understanding the customer discovery process, and enhanced presentation skills.

“The best part of the I-Corps program was going through the process of determining the value of your technology,” says Dustin Fraley of the HeatSeq project. “Great framework for developing a business plan and justifying why your technology is needed through potential user interviews,” Fraley said, commenting that it was an invaluable experience.

Beyond commercialization of technology, the von Liebig Center also hopes to impart and encourage an entrepreneurial mindset in students, faculty, and staff that will help in job searches, identifying other areas of research that are translatable, and writing more competitive grant proposals. This is in line with the vision of Don Millard, the Deputy Division Director of the Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) Division at the National Science Foundation. Millard has held this philosophy since the NSF I-Corps program was founded. Millard attended the Institute of the Global Entrepreneur launch on June 2nd and met with the Center about the strong outcomes UC San Diego’s NSF I-Corps site has produced.

“The best thing I learned was entrepreneur-like thinking. I'm currently looking into other potentially translatable technologies in my lab with the mindset imparted to me by the I-Corps program,” says Wangzhong Sheng, from the AMDepot project.

The NSF I-Corps program will be offered again in Fall 2016. Applications are open and teams will be selected in September. Click here to apply!

As a tribute to the success of NSF von Liebig Center, 5 out of the 8 finalists in the UCSD Entrepreneur Challenge -- NanoVR, Pain Measurement Technologies, Clip Diagnostics, Locana, and Genrix – had participated in the vLC I-Corps program and were awarded funds towards their projects by placing in the top 3 of their track.

Read more about the winners here, and take a look through Priya Bisarya’s experience here

UC San Diego Hosts Maker Space Symposium

Panel of experts from the Maker community at the Southern California InnovationMaker3 Symposium
The Southern California InnovationMaker3 Symposium was held at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego on Thursday, June 16, 2016.

The symposium is the second in a series of three events that bring together community college faculty interested in bringing maker spaces to their campuses with experts from the Maker community.

The events are presented by the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office (CCCCO) Workforce & Economic Development Division and the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST).

Nate Delson
“Jacobs School Dean Albert P. Pisano’s vision is for all engineers to have hands-on experience starting freshman year,” said Nate Delson, professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE) Department and faculty director of the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio at UC San Diego.

Delson gave a talk at the event. “We already had some small maker spaces such as the Design Studio in the MAE Department. EnVision is unique because all six engineering departments and the Visual Arts department are using it for classes.”

“We chose to hold this meeting at UC San Diego in order to connect Southern California community colleges with people like Nate Delson, because the fact that UC San Diego has a maker studio makes it a great trajectory for their students who are interested in making,” said Susan Hackwood, Executive Director of CCST.

Delson believes that maker spaces allow students to learn not just how to use a screwdriver, but all sorts of different tools in one space. He had advice for attendees: “Don’t leave the creation of a culture to chance – create a culture of inclusion and excellence. A maker space should be welcoming to students of all abilities by using techniques such as warm-up modules that bring all students up to speed on use of the fabrication tools. One of my favorite quotes is  ‘Hands on, minds on, hearts on’.”

Each symposium included the presentation of the recently released report: "Promoting Engagement of the California Community Colleges with the Maker Space Movement," authored by CCST. The report is a guide to develop a sustainable network which aligns with the educational goals of the Community Colleges while preserving the uniquely independent culture of the maker space.

The first of the three was held at UC Berkeley on June 13.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gordon Center Presents Adventures of an Industrial Physicist

On May 20th, The Gordon Engineering Leadership Center hosted Dr. Jonathan Arenberg for their quarterly forum. The forum took place in the Powell-Focht Bioengineering Building ground floor. Dr. Arenberg gave a wonderful presentation on his work and life experience working in the interesting and ever-expanding field of industrial engineering within the realm of physics.

Each quarter, the Gordon Center brings in professionals within a myriad of industries, such as bioengineering, aerospace, technology, and more, to speak on behalf of their experiences. Many of the visiting speakers hold extensive years of experience within their fields and are able to impart useful knowledge and helpful tips to the audience.

Dr. Arenberg, with years of experience working with optical, space, and laser systems, brought to students words of advice about career decisions, how to advance in a career, understanding the importance of loving what you do, and being unafraid to change career paths should you find something you truly enjoy doing more.

In his presentation, rightly titled "The Adventures of an Industrial Physicist: A Curated Tour," Dr. Arenberg touched upon his educational growth. Dr. Arenberg is a UCLA alumni who was initially interested in physics but found engineering to suit his lifestyle more as he discovered his passion for it via a college internship. As he decided to apply to graduate programs for both physics and engineering, he trusted his gut and made the decision to follow through with engineering school. He claims that this pivotal choice was "the best decision I've ever made as an adult."

He opened up about the true reality that is the engineering workforce, remarking that the beginning assignments may not always be the most fun, but that true satisfaction builds after having gone through those less exciting assignments and job positions. Dr. Arenberg also touched upon the fact that engineering is generally a career path that does not yield immediate satisfaction. Still, despite all of it, he is glad he made the decision and cannot see himself doing anything else with as much passion and dedication.

Touching upon his experience with optical telescopes, helping to create and sell the technologies helping with discoveries of exoplanets, and the ever-expanding future of industrial engineering and physics, he ended the presentation optimistically. As he added in the end, "I look forward to tomorrow's challenges, and look forward to the promise of the skyline."

We invite the local engineering community to join or consider sharing their story at our next forum.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cold Formed Steel Framing: a factsheet

Source: CEMCO Steel Framing

Cold Formed Steel Framing (CFS)

CFS, produced by CEMCO Steel Framing, is ideally suited to midrise construction in high seismic areas for a variety of reasons.  Importantly, the strength to weight ratio of steel, which is unmatched by all other construction materials, makes it ideally suited for use in high seismic areas.  Because steel is lighter than most competing building materials, it generates lower seismic forces and less inertia when subjected to strong earthquakes.  In addition, steel framing members absorb energy unlike more rigid, inflexible materials. Cold-formed steel in particular also results in high precision members, and in this test program, components (entire walls and segments of floor) of the building have been prefabricated off-site and erected rapidly through panelized placement. In fact, the erection of the structural core of the building took only eight days.

Added benefits regarding the post-earthquake fire performance of steel include the fundamental aspect that steel is non-combustible.  It does not burn and does not contribute to the spread of fire nor to the intensity of the heat that result in most combustible construction.  The fire resistant nature of steel framing benefits building owners with lower insurance costs.

Another beneficial aspect is that steel is inorganic.  As such, its quality is always consistent.  The effects of climate, pests and fungi cannot inhibit the structural capacity of the steel framing components.  Their form and function remain stable throughout the life of the building that they support.  In addition, steel connections, whether by screws, pins, bolts, or welds provide a positive, consistent load path.

Last but certainly not least, steel is sustainable.  Steel products can be recycled infinitely.  Current industry recycle rates are estimate at 68%, though steel is truly 100% recyclable.

Sure-Board for Shear
CEMCO's Sure-Board sheet metal backed sheathing wall and floor panels were employed in this project to achieve sufficient wall and floor strength under design earthquake loading.  Like steel framing, Sure-Board is non-combustible, and is twice as strong as plywood.  A single Sure-Board panel replaces the need for installing multiple layers of shear and finish materials, and as a result construction is faster and more precise. Sure-Board has been utilized extensively as shear resistant sheathing on low and mid-rise projects across North America.