UC Davis student-led tech projects provide solutions to societal issues

CITRIS Tech for Social Good at UC Davis 2019 - OneLoop team
CITRIS Tech for Social Good at UC Davis 2019 – OneLoop team

by Edward Kang

The CITRIS Tech for Social Good program at UC Davis offers funding for student-led learning and technology development. With support of up to $5,000, students are able to develop their tech for social good ideas into prototypes. Past projects range from machine-learning tools for cancer classification, water filtration for floating villages in Cambodia, to community fridges in Davis for food waste reduction. This year, four projects — the mobile app Belonging for women in STEM, a hyperloop pod prototype, a medical supply drone, and an automated recycling system — were supported through the program’s Tech Development Track. Team members demonstrated their work at the UC Davis Engineering Design Showcase in June 2019.

Belonging – Improving women’s access to STEM fields

UC Davis undergraduates Eric Harrison, Megan West, Nathandis Wyley, and Susanna Zheng developed the Belonging app to mitigate barriers and stigmas that contribute to the low representation of women in STEM fields. The app connects students with campus resources so that underrepresented groups can feel welcome and comfortable at school. “For the past two years, we’ve been conducting research into what “belonging” means to students, with a focus on making sure our students feel supported,” says electrical engineering major Wyley.

Oneloop – Building transonic next-gen transportation

The UC Davis OneLoop team of 58 undergraduate and graduate students have prototyped a hyperloop pod with a 100 mph max speed that may one day transport people across the country at transonic speeds. The team is one of 20 finalists that competed in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition against other colleges globally, passing 69 safety tests in their inaugural appearance. “We’re really proud of our pod this year, and none of it would have been possible without the support of a few key groups, especially CITRIS and the Banatao Institute,” says Gonzalez, propulsion co-leader. 

Medical Supply Delivery Drone – Bringing disaster relief to remote areas

Created by undergraduates Sebastian Coronel, Trevor Metz, Yashdeep Sidana, and Reiko Yoshizawa, the team’s drone is designed to deliver up to one kilogram of basic first aid supplies to remote and often underserved locations. Of the 90,000 people who die annually worldwide from natural disasters, many succumb to injuries while waiting for relief. Drone technologies could also be used to support the over 400 million people worldwide who live in regions without access to essential health services or infrastructures. “We did [this] project to be able to help those in need,” says mechanical engineering major Yoshizawa. 

SmartCan – AI sorting trash to reduce waste

The SmartCan device will sort your trash for you, eliminating waste misplacement by over 50 percent. Undergraduate project leaders Tayah Kirschenmann, Varsha Senthil, and Tara Soudbakhsh are designing an automatic recycling system with sorting functions to mitigate human error and improve environmental sustainability. The product aims to install sensors in trash cans to correctly identify and designate waste material, compress trash, and create a system to notify janitors. “We can’t risk putting more waste into landfills just because of these small errors,” says mechanical engineering major Soudbakhsh.

For more information about the student-led Tech for Social Good Program at UC Davis and UC Berkeley, see https://citris-uc.org/tech-social-good/


Photos by Adriel Olmos

The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners. Find out more at CITRIS-UC.org.