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: Spartans Support Neighboring Community During Flood

Alumnus Ralph Murrieta Jr, '11 MPA, right, and other Spartans volunteered to help with cleanup efforts following flooding along the Coyote Creek and in San Jose neighborhoods on March 11. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Alumnus Ralph Murrieta Jr, ’11 MPA, right, and other Spartans volunteered to help with cleanup efforts following flooding along the Coyote Creek and in San Jose neighborhoods on March 11. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By Barry Zepel

The San Jose State University community has a long tradition of helping during times of crisis. That was the case on Feb. 21 after the recent record rainfall led to Anderson Dam spilling over its banks in Morgan Hill and into the Coyote Creek, which then overflowed onto various streets and neighborhoods in San Jose, causing flood damage and displacing residents.

While university administrators offered support to students, staff and faculty in the affected neighborhoods, CommUniverCity Director Dayana Salazar coordinated with The Health Trust to start a fundraiser to support local residents. As of the end of March, the groups had raised $9,430.

In addition to financial support, Spartan volunteers also helped with cleanup work near the creek and around the city. Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful (KCCB), the South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition and the city of San Jose initiated clean-up work starting on Feb. 24, with follow-up efforts into March. Alumnus Ralph Murrieta Jr. and students Shannen Osborne and Maribel Muratalla were among a contingent of volunteers ready to help on March 11. Murrieta and Muratalla have been KCCB team leaders for two years.

On an early Saturday morning, volunteers, including Murrieta, found mud, downed fences, Ethernet cables and copper wires, as well as fallen debris from trees that had been drenched by the rains and accompanying high-velocity winds of the previous days. Murrieta, ’11 MPA, is no rookie when it comes to community service and volunteerism.

“I’ve been volunteering with Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, (a community group) dedicated to restoring the local watershed, for roughly a year-and-a-half,” he explained.

Murrieta said he first became involved in community volunteering in 2015 through SJSU’s CommUniverCity program. CommUniverCity is a unique partnership between the university and the city of San Jose that engages SJSU students and faculty members with residents and city staff members for learning projects that accomplish neighborhood-defined goals. The program creates and supports 50 community action projects annually in a multitude of disciplines. They range from after-school tutoring and nutrition education to adult financial literacy classes.

With cleanup being a vital community need in March, Murrieta served as team leader for a group of 15 to 20 other volunteers along the banks of the creek.

“Among the things we found (and picked up) were traces of homeless encampments, including clothing, bedding, various metal and wood debris items, and food wrappers,” he said. “While our operation wrapped up after a few hours – around 11 a.m. – I know that some of the volunteers went on to assist other clean-up operations that were taking place in the city.”

Deb Kramer, program manager for KCCB, said their efforts were scheduled for two hours on March 11, but many volunteers stayed longer to help clean up the Olinder play area, including removing tan bark and sand, and cleaning play structures and picnic benches that had been contaminated by the flood.

SJSU student and alumni volunteers participated in clean ups along the Coyote Creek, near William Street Park and the Selma Olinder Play Area, east of campus.

SJSU student and alumni volunteers participated in cleanups along the Coyote Creek, near William Street Park and the Selma Olinder Play Area, east of campus.

Osborne, a senior majoring in communications, has been involved with KCCB since taking a couple of environmental courses at the university. She is currently serving as an intern with the community agency. The university’s partnership with KCCB is coordinated through the Center for Community Learning and Leadership, a program that supports service-learning opportunities for students.

“I was helping check in other volunteers at the beginning, so initially I saw many eager people who wanted to help,” she said. “This was not something that residents of San Jose or other surrounding cities ever would have expected to happen, especially since we were just in a drought for so long.”

Among the items she and other volunteers picked up were old tires, shopping carts, old clothing and blankets, and a quarter ton of trash.

“For me, this hits very close to home since I live right along the creek,” Osborne said. “Luckily, I was not harmed by the flooding, but it was definitely too close for comfort and opened my eyes that my family and I could have been evacuated. I definitely wanted to do all that I could to make sure the areas that were affected had some help.”

Likewise, Murrieta’s home was spared any personal loss, but he witnessed firsthand the destructive forces of the recent flooding in the city.

“I did see some of the flooded streets near my (place of) work,” he said.
Both Osborne and Murrieta encouraged others to get involved as community volunteers.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to give back to your community,” Osborne said. “And you get to meet great people who are excited to be involved in something that helps the local environment. Each (volunteer) helps make such a significant difference.”

Murrieta noted what can be learned from the experience.

“History is happening every day, and you can’t shape it and society by reading a book. You have to get involved,” he said. “It can add to what you are learning in the classroom by providing depth to the issue.”

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.

Mineta Transportation Institute Receives Community Partnership Recognition Award

On March 2 the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) presented the Mineta Transportation Institute with their Community Partnership Recognition award. Specifically, VTA recognized the efforts of MTI Research associates Dr. Frances Edwards and Mr. Dan Goodrich for the expert training they provided to VTA on emergency management.

“We are recognizing the Mineta Transportation Institute for being a valued community partner,” said San José Mayor Sam Liccardo and VTA Board of Directors Vice Chairperson.  “VTA reached out to MTI to educate VTA on its roles and responsibilities in the event of a wide-scale emergency or disaster. The MTI instructors brought multiple decades of emergency management and security experience to VTA and provided a depth of knowledge of the four phases of emergency management: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. VTA continues to partner with MTI to deliver quality emergency management education to its employees.”

Dr. Edwards, deputy director of MTI’s National Transportation Safety and Security Center, and Mr. Goodrich bring decades of experience in emergency management to their work with transportation agencies. Their most recent research, Emergency Management Training for Transportation Agencies, identifies best practices in providing training courses to adults, with a particular emphasis on the effectiveness of interactive training materials.

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE
At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation’s’ transportation system through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer. We help create a connected world.

MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.