South Bay college students showcase projects designed for Silicon Valley

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Dozens of students from San Jose State University (SJSU) and Santa Clara University (SCU) showcased products, prototypes and ideas designed to help the local Silicon Valley community on Monday.

The projects were unveiled at the first-ever Engineering Projects in Community Services (EPICS) Expo held at SJSU. The EPICS Expo was the collaborative effort of SJSU's EPICS program, SCU's Frugal Innovation Hub, and "EPICS in IEEE."

The students focused on engineering solutions to fix what directors call "social inequalities" across the Silicon Valley. It's high tech with a heart.

SJSU Professor and Director of SJSU EPICS Program, Julia Thompson shared, "The Silicon Valley is known for its technology, but we also have really high income inequality and a lot of social issues."

She continued, "All of these problems that the students are addressing come from the issues that have been identified by our local organizations."

One project featured pop-up smart lockers with plug-in capabilities for the valley's homeless population.

"This is going to allow them to securely store their electronics and charge them as they go shower, get some food, get ready for the job interview they have coming up," SJSU Mechanical Engineering student, Daniel Maloney told ABC7 News. He presented the project at the EPICS Expo.

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When the rivers come up, another project would provide a warning system to detect imminent flooding.

The system, presented by SCU students, is dependent on cloud application, data collection and sensors along Coyote Creek and the Guadalupe River.

SCU Computer Engineering major, Tai Groot told ABC7 News, "It'll forward that data off to the Santa Clara Valley Water District. Then they can send an alert to all the residents in the area."

Groot explained the project provides an energy efficient, low cost, low power solution for safety across the Santa Clara Valley.

"The cloud application will do some data crunching and figure out, 'Hey look, we've been seeing some water levels rise on these rivers, on these bridges,'" he explained. "'We predict there's going to be a flood in the next 15-20 minutes.' Maybe hours ahead of time, depending on how clear the data is."

Other projects challenged a group of engineering students from SJSU to go even lower, beneath the surface of South Bay rivers for the sake of endangered species.

"The water is so contaminated that researchers are unable to go in there and look for the endangered fish," SJSU Computer Engineering major, Christian Lopez said. "So, in order for them to be safe, we've created this tool for them."

An aquatic rover, or underwater drone could soon monitor Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Trout up against waste left behind by homeless living on the river.

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"We don't want them to go extinct," Edward Melendez said. "That would be the worst case scenario."

Melendez is also working on the Aquatic Rover, and is a Mechanical Engineering student at SJSU.

Students were given the opportunity to network with corporate and non-profit representatives, and display a number of student-led projects.

Financial grants were also rewarded to student teams to help bring their projects to market. SJSU students were awarded $10,000 for two projects. SCU students were awarded $10,000 for five projects.

Grants are made possible through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Foundation.

A press release on the event explained "EPICS in IEEE" empowers students to work with local service organizations to apply technical knowledge to implement solutions for a community's unique challenges.

The release goes on to explain, EPICS in IEEE not only assists communities in achieving their specific local community improvement goals but also encourages students to pursue engineering for community improvement as a career.

Some background: EPICS@SJSU is a service-learning program in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at SJSU. Multidisciplinary teams of students serve local community partners by designing and building custom engineering solutions.

About Santa Clara University and the Frugal Innovation Hub Sponsored by the School of Engineering, the Frugal Innovation Hub (FIH) mission is to engage students and faculty in humanitarian and sustainable projects through partnerships and programs.
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