San Quentin computer project wins 2009 Big Ideas

Congratulations to all of this year’s thirteen finalists, who did a fantastic job representing their work at the April 29 poster session. This year, seven proposals received a total of $30,000 in prize money. Click here to support your favorite Big Ideas projects.

First prize of $13,000: San Quentin All-access computer center

West Hays, Alayna Johnson, Erik McDonald, UC Berkeley

Through the introduction of an all-access computer center at San Quentin State prison, we propose a feasibility study and a pilot impact study of computer training in two distinct educational programs: one program will focus on instructing basic computer literacy to inmate students in the GED preparation class, and the other will concentrate on teaching advanced computer-aided design (CAD) to inmate-students in the prison’s vocational-training machine shop. This will be the first study of the ability of Information Technology to reduce the crisis of overcrowding in California’s prisons. This project has the full support of San Quentin’s administration and expands upon a thriving service-learning project that we coordinate, in which 70 UC Berkeley undergraduates teach and tutor weekly at San Quentin

Second prize of $8,000: Hyoumanity

Xiaomeng Zhong, Jon Hicks, Brad Kittredge and Elise Singer, UC Berkeley

Patients facing the most complex and difficult diagnoses sometimes see dozens of doctors and spend years searching for answers. Ultimately, resolving many of these cases depends upon matching a patient with a unique, complex, and potentially rare condition to the doctor with the expertise, experience, and insight to recognize and diagnose it. By providing a forum that allows patients to post a structured medical profile and offer a monetary reward for information leading to a diagnosis, Hyoumanity flips diagnostic search around, giving doctors both a mechanism and incentive to find the patients they can help. Using the reach of the web and the power of market forces to better match patient needs with distributed medical expertise will help to lower medical costs, improve health outcomes, and alleviate pain and suffering. Learn more at

Third prize of $5000: Silicon-Based Portable Imaging Device

Amin Arbabian and Ali Niknejad, UC Berkeley

Honorable mentions, $1,000
In addition to the top three prizes, there were four honorable mentions, who
each received $1000 to support their work

1) CINCH: Cell Phone Technologies to Increase Nigerian Community Health

Evelyn Castle, Jenny Scafidi, Adam Thompson and Paul Lubeck, UC Santa Cruz
This project aims to determine suitable mobile technologies that will improve the health care system in Nigeria. Cell phone technologies are the most efficient way to get information to the majority of citizens in cities and in rural areas. Most of Nigeria does not have access to a constant electricity source. Mobile phones are much more versatile than computers or the Internet because they do not require electricity to run. Data can be collected and disseminated regardless of what the situation is regarding electricity. Mobile technologies are also a means to collect health information and surveys in a more organized manner.

2) Metamouse: Technology to Aid Multiple Users in Sharing Existing Applications

Kurtis Heimerl, Anuj Tewari, Kelly Buchanan, Eric Brewer, Tapan Parikh, and John Canny, UC Berkeley

We propose an easy to implement interaction system that allows multiple users to share existing applications without modification. We call this system Metamouse. Metamouse provides each user their own mouse and cursor. These cursors are then mapped down to one metacursor, which interacts with the existing applications. This allows the applications to see just one cursor, as they expect, but the cursor is controlled by many students at once. Our preliminary tests have shown that this interaction paradigm is viable and achieves our goal of involving multiple students more thoroughly in a learning activity. We feel that with proper execution, this technology has the potential to enrich educational environments all over the world.

3) Chronic Disease Tracking & Management
Sean Ahrens, Arthur Klepchukov, and Devon Shurick, UC Berkeley

4) Point of Care Device
Octavian Florescu, Karl Skucha, and Tayson Siegel, UC Berkeley