April 2017 Newsletter: An Adventure of EPICS Proportions

Photo: Lisa Francesca SJSU students work on a Spartan Superway project as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course.

Photo: Lisa Francesca
SJSU students work on a Spartan Superway project as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course.

Adapted from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Spring 2017 “Engineering for Good” Alumni Magazine article by Lisa Francesca, communications specialist

San Jose State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering launched a pilot of an Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course in 2016 to provide service learning and project-based opportunities to undergraduate students. Originally started at Purdue University 20 years ago, the EPICS program is now offered at more than 25 universities. The student teams are interdisciplinary and work for real-world nonprofit clients to solve a community concern.

Dr. Jinny Rhee, the associate dean for undergraduate students in the College of Engineering, initiated the program last spring.

“A study by CSU Northridge showed that involvement in community service increases both retention and graduation rates in engineering programs,” she said. “This was a profound motivation for us to start the program, and now we are realizing even more benefits. Students become involved with authentic problems and build valuable connections with members of local industry and nonprofit communities. And it provides them with opportunities to mentor each other.”

One team developed a software program called “Study Buddy” that will allow computer science students to text questions to IBM’s supercomputer Watson and receive answers.

“I’m so excited about this project,” said Joey Richardson, ’16 Computer Engineering. “We are creating a completely new technology. We are training Watson to learn computer science so it can answer the questions. That means we have to supply all the information to Watson as well as devise the questions that first and second-year students are likely to ask. We are manipulating our knowledge so Watson can help anyone to study successfully.”

A second team continued through 2017 with a project started by students in the spring 2016 pilot program. The students are working to convert an old shipping container into a mobile shower and laundry facility for the homeless. The initial team moved the container from the Port of Oakland to the Engineering building courtyard by outfitting it with axles, wheels and a hitch. They installed the initial shower and laundry fixtures, attaching solar panels to it. This year’s team is working on adding insulation to the unit that is equipped to provide showers to 14 clients a day. The students received donations from the Gilroy Compassion Center, SJSU and Sunpower, and also launched a GoFundMe campaign.

Another set of students is working on creating an electric vehicle charger with parameters set by Dr. Fred Barez, the chair of Aviation and Technology.
“We’ve been learning all about restrictions,” said Daniel Khawaja, ’16 Computer Engineering. “We don’t get to design whatever we want – it’s what he wants. It would be much easier to design a solution for a ‘fun’ problem. But it’s exciting, too. We’ve been able to get critiques, ideas and help from industry professionals.”

The program is expanding to include an upper and lower division course so seniors will have an opportunity to mentor peers while first-year students will have a chance to do relevant community service, according to Keith Perry, the professor who is teaching the class.

Read the full article online.

April 2017 Newsletter: Interns Gain Valuable Skills at Cinequest Film Festival

Photo: James Tensuan Bianca Jaimes posed for a photo on campus with her Cinequest Film and VR Festival pass. She was one of eight SJSU students to intern during the spring festival. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Photo: James Tensuan
Bianca Jaimes posed for a photo on campus with her Cinequest Film and VR Festival pass. She was one of eight SJSU students to intern during the spring festival. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

By the time Bianca Jaimes — a San Jose State University senior majoring in Radio, Television and Film — finished her internship with the 2017 Cinequest Film and VR Festival last month, the experience had sharpened her focus on her future in the industry.

Not only did she learn firsthand how film festivals work, including the crucial art of networking to make industry connections, but also how important the planning and pre-production part of a film project is for its ultimate success.

“The internship definitely helped me and gave me consideration, choices and options to consider for my future,” she said. “It did give me more insight on the process of getting my own productions out there.”

At this year’s festival, eight SJSU students participated in the internship program for the annual event that screened more than 500 films from Feb. 28 to March 12 at venues scattered throughout downtown San Jose, as well as San Jose’s Santana Row and Redwood City. Alison McKee, a professor in the Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre who alternates directing RTVF internships with Professor Kimb Massey, said one-quarter of the department’s 32 spring semester internships among juniors and seniors are with the film festival.

Internships, both paid and unpaid, are required to earn a degree from the department and can be with a wide variety of companies and organizations. McKee said RTVF students, who must find and secure internships on their own, are also at ABC7 News in San Francisco and NBC Bay Area in San Jose this semester. The internships in her department are also occasionally with Silicon Valley high-tech companies that have their own media production facilities or such high-profile film production companies as Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville and Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles.

“Cinequest, in particular, presents an amazing opportunity for students, partly because it is just so convenient,” McKee noted, adding most festival venues are within easy walking distance of the campus. But it also brings the film industry, based largely in Southern California, to the Capital of Silicon Valley every year.

Student interns at Cinequest perform a variety of tasks, ranging from helping set up events, running errands in the background, setting up the hospitality center, assisting projectionists, promoting the festival and a myriad of other duties.

Jaimes worked as a hospitality concierge at the film festival, allocating passes to filmmakers, contacting them to make sure they would attend festival events, working on guest lists for breakfasts and workshops, creating and filling filmmaker “goodie bags,” among other tasks. She was stationed in the event’s VIP Lounge, located in The Continental Bar & Lounge, next door to the venerable California Theatre. The lavishly renovated 1,122-seat movie palace opened in 1927 and serves as headquarters for Cinequest.

“In general, I helped make sure everything ran smoothly, and that guests and filmmakers were happy and got great service,” Jaimes said.

McKee stays in close contact with students enrolled in RTVF 198 — Internships, Portfolio, Career Prep — a three-unit semester course. She meets with them three to four times during the semester and requires a report about the internship from students at its conclusion. The real-world workplace experience can be invaluable.

“They learn practical skills, how to present themselves and how to network and establish relationships,” McKee said. “They get tested in a real-work environment, and it also helps them hone their interests while still in school. Another valuable lesson is learning the value of time management. Our students are pulled in so many different directions. They have to learn how to manage their time in what is a less-forgiving environment than school. They can apply that to their studies, as well.”

April 2017 Newsletter: Provost Update – Community Connections Foster Engagement

Students and alumni clean up Coyote Creek, which flooded in February. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Students and alumni clean up Coyote Creek, which flooded in February. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

In February, after a season of heavy rainfall, Coyote Creek overflowed.  The resulting flooding displaced nearby residents. As a campus, we quickly offered support to SJSU students, faculty and staff affected by the disaster. Spartans also volunteered to help community members in need, through a fundraiser launched by CommUniverCity that has raised $9,400 to date and by helping with neighborhood clean-up efforts in the weeks following the flood.

As a metropolitan university, we are strengthened by the connections we foster with our community, including the city of San Jose, neighboring residents and the greater Silicon Valley region. SJSU intersects with the city in many visible ways – from the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, which serves as a gateway between downtown and our campus, to the Hammer Theatre along the Paseo de San Antonio, where SJSU operates what has become a prestigious arts and entertainment venue. The theater has also become a place for civic engagement and we hosted the launch of our Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change there.

Our students, faculty, staff and alumni engage beyond the borders of our downtown campus in a variety of ways, from courses that incorporate service-learning projects to internships to research, scholarship and creative activities that enhance the quality of life in our community. We are fortunate to have CommUniverCity and the Center for Community Learning and Leadership fostering partnerships with government agencies, nonprofits and other entities. They provide opportunities for students from many disciplines to further their skills while gaining practical work experience that also prepares them to be engaged citizens when they graduate. Some of our service-learning projects include flood relief efforts, cleaning up our local watersheds and a unique program in which students assist low-income clients who want to expunge their misdemeanor criminal records.

As we focus on student success, we continue to emphasize the importance of student engagement, especially through internships and service learning. This spring, Humanities and the Arts students learned the importance of networking in their industry while interning at the Cinequest Film and VR Festival and engineering students worked in teams as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course to solve problems for nonprofit clients.

Faculty, staff and students are regularly engaged in research that aims to find practical solutions for important issues. Professor Fritz Yambrach designed a vest that will help transport water in developing countries or in times of disaster around the world, while Tom Reisz is leading work with the Eastside Union High School District on the Math Readiness Challenge Initiative Grant in efforts to improve college readiness.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which our campus is involved in the greater community, and I commend all of you who stay engaged in our surrounding neighborhoods. I am proud of all the ways Spartans are influencing our region.

Science Students Share Research on May 5

Student Research Day Flier

Student Research Day Flier

Undergraduate and graduate students from the College of Science will present findings from research they have conducted with faculty members as part of Student Research Day on May 5, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., on the Ground Level of Duncan Hall. Students from all disciplines in the college will display posters about their research and will be available to discuss their work with visitors.

The event is one of several planned as part of a week-long Inauguration Celebration for San Jose State University’s 30th President, Mary A. Papazian, who will be inaugurated on May 4, at 9:30 a.m. on Tower Lawn. The week’s activities also include two film screenings that relate to our president’s strong cultural heritage but also tie into San Jose State University’s legacy of social justice in times of turmoil. “They Shall Not Perish: The Story of Near East Relief” will be shown on April 30, at 3 p.m., in the Diaz-Compean Student Union Theater. “The Promise,” starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, will be shown on May 2, at 7:30 p.m., at Century Oakridge 20, in San Jose.

In addition to the screenings, activities will include a guest lecture, musical concerts, poetry readings and the Innovation to Inspiration Gala. Visit the Inauguration website to see the full list of activities and events planned from April 21 through May 5.

 

Final University Scholars Series Lecture Features Rachael French April 26

Early Career Investigator Award Winners Rachael French, left, and Miranda Worthen pose for a photograph at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Early Career Investigator Award Winner Rachael French, left, will present her work at the final University Scholars Series of the semester on April 26. Also pictured is Miranda Worthen, who was also honored with the ECIA in February. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Associate Professor Rachael French, recipient of a 2017 Early Career Investigator Award, will present the final lecture in the University Scholars Series on Wednesday, April 26, from noon to 1 p.m., in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room 225/229. Dr. French, who has brought in more than $1.2 million in external funding to support her research, will discuss the work she is conducting in her Drosophila Genetics lab. She and her student researchers are studying the impact of fruit fly development when eggs are laid in an alcohol-rich environment. Her goal is that her research may someday help in treatment of fetal alcohol syndrome in humans. Financial backing for her studies, which started during her post-doctoral days at UC-San Francisco, comes from the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation. Her research is aided by three graduate students and six undergraduate SJSU students.

The University Scholars Series is supported by the University Library, the Spartan Bookstore, Faculty Affairs, the Office of Research and the Office of the Provost.