From Undergrads to Business Leaders

SJSU's I2P team members in a group photo.

SJSU’s I2P team included Jared Oliva, Tu Nguyen, Maleeha Naqvi, Kyle Tang and their adviser, Professor Guna Selvaduray (CSU Public Affairs photo).

Hurt your elbow? Can’t lift your backpack?

SJSU students have created a forearm support device perfect for this situation and they are well on their way toward realizing their dream of transforming their idea into a business opportunity.

This month, they were finalists in the CSUPERB-I2P® Early-Stage Biotechnology Commercialization Challenge, part of the 21st Annual CSU Biotechnology Forum right here in Silicon Valley.

SJSU student shows visitor a poster for his project.

Duc Pham, ’15 Biochemistry, presents his poster to San Francisco State Professor George Gassner (Daryl Eggers photo).

The forum is a networking and professional development opportunity for students, faculty members and industry professionals. Everyone gathers for workshops, meetings, award presentations and poster sessions.

For example, Professor of Chemistry Daryl Eggers moderated a bioengineering reception to bring more engineers to the forum, which is quite interdisciplinary, including fields like kinesiology and physics.

The Exo-Arm

This includes SJSU’s I2P (Idea to Product) team. Three members are biomedical engineering majors, a fourth is studying business administration and a fifth is majoring in history.

Together, they presented the “Exo-Arm,” a simple, light but effective device designed to help people with limited mobility at the elbow carry objects weighing up to 30 pounds.

This product addresses the gap in the market between robotic exoskeletons and traditional slings,” said Jared Oliva, ’14 History.


An exoskeleton is an external skeleton that supports and protects an animal, like this spider. The Exo-Arm would also strengthen the human arm.

The engineering students built the prototype, while the business and history majors developed the branding and business plan. Their adviser was Professor of Material and Chemical Engineering Guna Selvaduray. Tech Futures Group also provided guidance.

Entrepreneurship Education

The main goal of the I2P competition was entrepreneurship education, which means helping students learn what is needed to transform a life sciences idea into a commercial product.

“Out of the 20 teams in the preliminaries, San Jose State made it to the final round. Juggling final exams, part-time jobs and, for one team member, a newborn baby, we worked hard on our final presentation in front of the I2P judges,” Oliva said.

Although we ultimately did not win, the I2P Competition proved to be an invaluable experience for everyone.”

So valuable that the team is keeping design details under wraps.

“We are working on getting everything set,” Oliva said, “so that we can start putting it out there again.”

students on computers

SJSU Appoints Director of the Cybersecurity and Big Data Initiative

Professor Sigurd Meldal (photo by Robert Bain)

Professor Sigurd Meldal (photo by Robert Bain)

Professor of Computer Engineering Sigurd Meldal has been appointed director of the San Jose State University Cybersecurity and Big Data Initiative.

SJSU’s goal is to develop a premiere, interdisciplinary institute in the heart of Silicon Valley focusing on the challenges of cybersecurity and big data.

Meldal is the first full-time director of this two-year-old effort, composed of academic and pre-professional work for students, teaching and research by SJSU faculty members, and outreach to industry leaders.

In alignment with all of these efforts, SJSU has hosted and organized events, symposia and summer schools such as the annual Symposium on Curriculum Development in Security and Information Assurance (CDSIA) for the past six years and the U.S. Cyber Challenge for the past two years.

Interdisciplinary programs

Meldal’s work will include coordinating the efforts of five SJSU colleges and over 30 faculty members contributing to this endeavor. This will involve nurturing the development of new courses and certificates for SJSU students, academic enrichment opportunities for K-12 students and educators, and government and corporate partnerships including an advisory council.

Meldal received a doctorate from the University of Oslo, and taught at the University of Bergen, Stanford University and California Polytechnic State University before joining San Jose State in 2002 to serve as chair of the then new Department of Computer Engineering. Meldal also serves as a co-director at the National Science and Technology Center for Ubiquitous Secure Technology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Security, privacy, and public policy

He describes his research interests to include “the many aspects of concurrent processing, with an emphasis on its formalization by means of programming, prototyping and specification formalisms with supporting tools such as language frameworks for prototyping of distributed architectures and the abstraction mechanisms necessary for large-scale conformance checking.”

Professor Meldal has long been interested in the interplay of security and computing, contributing to the design of support systems for the surveillance of nuclear arms treaty compliance. In particular, he is interested in the security aspects of ubiquitous computing and mobile devices, as well as the interplay of security with privacy and public policy.

The Power of Gratitude: Sharing Success

Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering

Success isn’t just about being successful yourself, but also helping others achieve success. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some mentors I’ve had. I’m thankful, and I want to give back.”

“I never thought I’d be here,” says Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering. Since transferring from an East Bay community college, Le has completed two internships—with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and with The CORE Group construction company, where he served as lead estimator on a hospital project. This year, he was elected SJSU chapter president for the Associated General Contractors of California and he received the Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship for the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“At SJSU, there are lots of ups and downs,” says Le. “Receiving this scholarship gives me the motivation to keep going—academically and professionally. It gets hard.”

Le is quick to share the credit for his success. “A lot of people helped me out,” he says. Now, along with becoming “the best project manager out there,” Le hopes to mentor students who will impact their communities with innovative ideas for a sustainable future. Down the line, he dreams of endowing a scholarship in his name for other students like himself who, he says, “you’d never think could be engineers.”

“Success isn’t just about being successful yourself, but also helping others achieve success,” says Le. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some mentors I’ve had. I’m thankful, and I want to give back.”

View The Power of Gratitude series.

KTVU: NSA Accused of Breaking into Yahoo, Google Data Centers

KTVU: NSA Accused of Breaking into Yahoo, Google Data Centers

KTVU: NSA Accused of Breaking into Yahoo, Google Data Centers

KTVU interviews Professor Meldal about reports that the NSA has broken into Yahoo and Google data centers.

Posted by KTVU Oct. 30, 2013.

KTVU interviewed SJSU Department of Computer Engineering Chair Sigurd Meldal in response to reports that the National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. Meldal is interim director of the SJSU Cybersecurity Cluster and co-director of the National Science Foundation-funded Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST). 

View the full story. 

10 Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

Spartan Squad Students

Students earn points and prizes for attending home games. Everyone who registers will be entered into a drawing for an all-expenses paid trip to the Oct. 5 football game in Hawaii. (Christina Olivas Photo)

1. Register for Spartan Squad Student Rewards and win a trip to Hawaii!

2. ESPN will broadcast Friday night’s football game. During breaks in the action, see spots on judo, animation, Spartan Racing and Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol.

3. After receiving the Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coaching Award, kinesiology alumna Valerie Garcia Quintero said this:

“At a banquet last week, I was given the opportunity to speak and when I did, I made sure to speak about how wonderful and amazing the faculty and my department was at SJSU and how much I learned from them. I’ve been asked how I know how to coach and I tell them that I have had great coaches to learn from but I was extremely lucky to have had professionals in the field to teach me through my major.”

4. Check out this video showing how donors power all majors, including nursing, business, and urban and regional planning.

5. The SJSU chapter of political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha was named the best in the nation for the 2012-13 academic year.

“My department is very proud of these students for achieving this national recognition for the first time in SJSU’s history,” Professor Ken Peter said. “Sol Jobrack, chapter president, is a full-time student and new father and commutes daily from Stockton on the train, on which he works as a transit officer. Bill McCraw, who is marking his 50th year teaching at SJSU, was one of the founding faculty members of SJSU’s chapter.”

6. Three Silicon Valley Startup Cup finalists are from SJSU. Their ideas? A gamer lounge, laboratory supply service and cranium x-ray shield.

10 Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library presents this six-week series focusing on film history and popular music.

7. Where else can you go to the library to check out the shared history of film and pop music from the blues and Broadway to rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop? Live performances included!

8. George Whaley, professor emeritus of human resource management, has received the 2013 Trailblazer Award from The PhD Project, which helps African American, Native American and Hispanic students earn their PhDs and become business professors.

9. SJSU’s renowned occupational therapy program is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Think of all the people living better lives with help from our graduates.

10. Spartans stay connected online. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.

Student Assistant Amanda Holst contributed to this report.

U.S. News Rankings: SJSU Eighth Overall

U.S. News Rankings: SJSU Eighth Overall

U.S. News Rankings: SJSU Eighth Overall

“Our ranking reflects the academic achievements of our students, the quality of our programs, and San Jose State’s role powering Silicon Valley,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. (Christina Olivas photo)

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, Calif., — The 2014 edition of the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, available now online, shows SJSU at eighth overall among the West’s top public universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, up from ninth overall last year.

“Our ranking reflects the academic achievements of our students, the quality of our programs, and San Jose State’s role powering Silicon Valley,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “More students than ever are applying to San Jose State because SJSU offers over 130 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 110 fields, including excellent programs in business, engineering, science, education, art, humanities, social sciences, and applied sciences and arts.”

San Jose State’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering also received top marks, ranking second in the nation among public engineering programs offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, excluding service academies, up from third last year.

“There is no doubt about it. A huge percentage of the engineers, scientists and business professionals powering Silicon Valley chose to develop their talents at San Jose State University because SJSU offers moderately priced, nationally recognized programs right here in the epicenter of innovation,” President Qayoumi said.

Read more from U.S. News & World Report.

San José State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 31,300 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

The Hyperloop: Realistic?

How Realistic is the Hyperloop?

Two SJSU experts — a mechanical engineering professor and a transportation expert — comment on Elon Musk’s latest transportation venture (image courtesy of Tesla Motors).

Posted July 19 by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

By Preeti Upadhyaya

All week, the buzz around the proposed Hyperloop transport system has been growing steadily as the world tries to figure out just how commuters are supposed to get between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes.

In typical Elon Musk build-the-suspense fashion, the Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO will make us wait until Aug. 12 to reveal plans for his ultra-fast transport system. That leaves us plenty of time to speculate about the feasibility of this potentially transformational idea.

So far, most experts theorize that Musk will employ a pneumatic tube system to make the Hyperloop a reality, though he has denied this on Twitter. Think of the plastic cylindrical container you use to transport documents at a drive up bank teller and you’ve got the basic idea.

This isn’t exactly a new concept, said Phil Kesten, a physics professor at Santa Clara University.

“You’d have trains, kind of like bullets, shooting up and down a tube,” said Kesten, who explained that friction would be minimized through a magnetic levitation system keeping the sides of the train from hitting the tube.

After some quick number crunching, Kesten calculated that a Hyperloop train would have to accelerate at a rate of 0.3 Gs for at least 15 minutes to live up to Musk’s promise of a SF to LA commute of 30 minutes. To put that into perspective, when a regular commercial airplane takes off, passengers experience 0.2 G, but for a very short period of time.

“After 15 minutes at 0.3 G, I suspect most of us wouldn’t be very happy,” Kesten said.

Kesten estimated that to make the Hyperloop work, the train would have to move at a peak speed of 5,000 miles an hour. That’s about 10 times the speed of a commercial jet.

While it may be physically uncomfortable, the Hyperloop is not theoretically impossible, said Burford Furman, a professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at San Jose State University.

“There’s nothing here that violates fundamental physics,” said Furman, who is an expert in the area of automated transit networks.

Furman explained that if you use automated transit technology as a model for how the Hyperloop would unfold, the issue of cost will inevitably pose a big roadblock.

“The big costs are in the guideway, the thing that supports and guides the trains. And the larger the structure, the more it costs,” he said.

Until we learn more from Musk himself, it will be difficult to reconcile this issue with his statement that the Hyperloop could be built at one-tenth the cost of California’s proposed high-speed rail system.

The cost would be “at least on the order of what it would take for high-speed rail,” said Furman. “It would probably go beyond that because this technology hasn’t been proven yet. High-speed rail and that technology exists already all over the world.”

High-speed rail in California itself is an embattled project, facing severe scrutiny and criticism for its cost, environmental impact and a host of other factors.

But at least the ball is rolling for that effort, said Rod Dirdon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, a San Jose-based research institute focusing on intermodal surface transportation issues.

Diridon said that Musk and his Hyperloop face an uphill battle in terms of securing project clearance.

That would have to come after extensive engineering studies and tests. Diridon said Musk must create a complete concept, build a test track, build a demonstration track to work out the kinks and acquire federal safety certifications as well as environmental clearance.

Only after that is complete can the project move forward with public hearings and obtaining land use rights from cities.

Diridon paints a dizzying picture of the red tape and bureaucracy that has mired the high-speed rail project in California.

The initial efforts to get environmental clearance started in 1996 and took until 2008 to approve only the route, station locations and mode of transport. Even then, the bullet train only has project clearance for the portion of the Central Valley, Diridon said.

Elon Musk would be building his Hyperloop from scratch with no prior models to draw on at the scale he is envisioning. Diridon suggested the time frame for the Hyperloop would be at least that of the high-speed rail project, and that’s being extremely generous.

While the challenges facing Hyperloop may be discouraging, Diridon stressed that he is supporting Musk’s efforts and anyone else who is looking at solutions beyond our current transport system.

“I’d do anything in the world to help this get beyond the institutional barriers in the way,” Diridon said. “But it will take a whole lot of effort to make it to primetime.”

Innovations in Engineering Education

Engineering Education Innovators

Innovations in Engineering Education

Mark and Carolyn Guidry at the 2006 Engineering Awards Banquet (photo courtesy of the Guidry family).

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, CA – To support San Jose State University’s groundbreaking efforts to develop new approaches to teaching engineering, the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation has made a $2.5 million gift commitment, establishing the Carolyn Guidry Professor of Engineering Education.

“We are grateful the Guidry family values San Jose State’s position at the forefront of the transformation now underway in higher education,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “The Carolyn Guidry Professor of Engineering Education will help SJSU make a major impact in this field.”

The Carolyn Guidry Professor of Engineering Education will be a senior faculty member who is a national leader in engineering education and higher education research. This professor will conduct research in approaches and strategies for teaching engineering, resulting in the development of best practices for retention and learning outcomes for engineering students at the university level.

“My family strongly believes in the power of education and that we must continually transform engineering education to produce graduates with the tools needed for the world as it will be, not merely as it is today,” said Gayle Guidry Dilley, Carolyn’s daughter and the president of the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation.

All three of the couple’s children graduated with degrees in engineering or computer science. David earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA at London Business School; Mike earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering at San Jose State; and Gayle earned a bachelor’s in computer science at Chico State.

Mark and Carolyn Guidry

The late Carolyn Guidry, ’79 MS Computer Engineering, was born in Mississippi and spent her childhood in various states across the Deep South. She earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Louisiana State University in 1959. One week after graduation, she married Mark Guidry, a fellow electrical engineering major she met at LSU.

Carolyn began her career at Boeing, but she soon put her engineering career on hold and devoted 20 years to raising their three children. She later returned to school and earned her master’s in computer engineering from SJSU in 1979. She joined Hewlett-Packard and was a member of the design team for several HP computers until 1988. At HP, she was directly responsible for the development of a new flexible interconnect ribbon cable and the micro code for a new computer.

In partnership with Mark, Carolyn founded two successful companies:  Simon Software, a semiconductor design software company, and Avasem Corporation, a semiconductor product development company. Both eventually merged with other companies, and the combined companies became leaders in their respective fields.

Carolyn became a full-time volunteer for the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, developing its computer systems and software, and assisting in the development of concepts and funding.

Family foundation

After the Guidrys’ second company was acquired by Integrated Circuit Systems in 1993, she founded the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation and managed all aspects of the organization, which is devoted to supporting education and the arts.

Carolyn received an Alumni Award of Distinction from SJSU’s Davidson College of Engineering in 2006, and both she and Mark were inducted into the LSU College of Engineering’s Hall of Distinction in 2001. Carolyn passed away in 2009.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from LSU, Mark took a position at Boeing, in Seattle, Washington. He subsequently earned a master’s in electrical engineering from University of Washington and a doctoral degree from Iowa State University.

Mark taught at LSU, where he conducted research in semiconductor technology, laser technology and radio wave propagation. Prior to founding their companies, Mark, now retired, worked for Fairchild Semiconductor in Palo Alto, a small San Diego company and Texas Instruments in Houston.

San Jose State University — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Spartans at Work: Monterey Bay Aquarium

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with marine science alumna Sonya Sankaran.)

Sitting atop a yellow grassy hill, Pajaro Valley High School overlooks the Watsonville State Wildlife Area and a series of sloughs that make up the area’s wetlands. Watsonville, located about a half hour northeast of Monterey, is a community known for agriculture. Farms rely on the Pajaro River, which flows into Monterey Bay.

To teach high school students about their natural surroundings, Sonya Sankaran, ’12 M.S. Marine Science, works as a senior bilingual education specialist for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While attending graduate school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML), she began volunteering with the aquarium and later found out about this opportunity.

SJSU is the administrator of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the home of the master’s of marine science program for seven California State Universities. Thanks to her education, Sankaran is able to connect her students with the right experts for their research projects.

“Working at Moss Landing opened innumerable doors for me, which has allowed me to open doors for our students,” she said.

Her specific teen program with the aquarium, Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (W.A.T.C.H.), is a year-round elective science course offered by Pajaro Valley High School and Watsonville High School. For two weeks over the summer, students learn more about the Pajaro River Watershed from a combination of high school teachers, scientists and W.A.T.C.H. staff as preparation for their year-long school projects. Students have investigated the effects of non-native species on native species, ocean acidification and phytotoxins at a local lake.

Sankaran and her W.A.T.C.H. colleague Enrique Melgoza started their jobs together in April 2012. They are both fluent in Spanish, a useful skill since most of the students in the program come from Spanish-speaking households. Melgoza, ’08 Aviation Management, was raised in Watsonville and said he can relate to their students.

“Some of them don’t have a role model,” Melgoza said, “and for me, I don’t see myself as a role model for them. But they see me as a role model because I’ve been through what they’re going through right now. Then, going to San Jose State and having all of the knowledge—and being successful in my educational career and bringing it back—has helped me out.”

They teach their students to do field work, such as gathering samples and using a water quality testing kit that wirelessly connects with an iPad app. Sankaran’s favorite part of her job is giving her students the opportunity to study and connect with the outdoor environment, especially the ocean.

“A lot of young people don’t have time or opportunities to explore anymore,” she said, adding she enjoys “being able to give them experiences that demonstrate their relationship with the ocean and inspire conservation of their natural resources—experiences that they can share with their community, and eventually, take into their careers.”

San Jose Mercury News: Aspiring Immigrants Would be Ranked Under U.S. Senate Points Plan

Posted July 13, 2013 by the San Jose Mercury News.

By Matt O’Brien

For decades, America judged most aspiring immigrants by who they knew, not what they knew. Family ties meant more than work experience or advanced degrees.

But in the future, a new scorecard favoring workers whose résumés best fit the country’s priorities could radically change who is able to settle in the United States. The U.S. Senate’s immigration bill creates a ranking system that, beginning in 2018, would weigh many prospective immigrants on a 100-point scale measuring work experience, English fluency, education and other factors.

Those who score highest — up to 250,000 people each year, split between white-collar and blue-collar workers — would win a green card, giving them permanent U.S. residency.

Months of hearings dominated by lawmakers’ more pressing debate over illegal immigration and border security obscured the “merit-based” system — described in just 17 pages of the 1,197-page measure, which passed last month in a historic vote and now awaits a more contentious debate in the House of Representatives.

If it survives the House’s scrutiny, experts say the bill’s points system and other provisions favoring job skills could, in ways hard to predict, be the most dramatic reshaping and expansion of legal immigration in generations. To help understand how it would work, the Bay Area News Group invited several foreigners living in the region, and hoping to stay, to see how they would score if such a system were in use now.

How we ranked immigrants

A Transylvanian tech entrepreneur, a former Swedish Olympian and a Nepali gas station attendant were among those who volunteered to rank themselves using the description in the Senate bill.

None came near the maximum 100 points for high-skilled workers — a score requiring a nearly impossible combination of accomplishments: founding a business, earning a doctorate and having seven years of full-time U.S. work experience in a high-skill field by age 25. Workers whose jobs do not require college preparation would be measured differently on an 85-point scale.

Some who graded themselves were pleased with how it worked. Others were disappointed. Several said the points inadequately measured their life experience, contributions and promise.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would judge a few subjective categories — such as an “exceptional” work record. One thing became clear: The green cards are open to anyone in the world, but roughly half the points can only be accumulated through U.S. work experience.

“In my view that’s a good thing,” said Madeleine Sumption, an analyst at the independent Migration Policy Institute. “That weighting on jobs skills is more likely to admit people who will actually find work here.”

That means the system favors anyone who can first establish a temporary but legal foothold here, such as tech workers gaining Silicon Valley job experience on an H-1B visa, or lower-skilled workers — from Mendocino County loggers to Tahoe resort crews — invited by employers as guest workers. Because the Senate bill also welcomes tens of thousands more of those guest workers, many of those likely to rank highest on the blue-collar points scale are not yet living here. Here is how four Bay Area volunteers fared in the 100-point scale for professional workers:

Eric La Fleur, Sweden, graphic designer

Points: 44

In his favor: Highlights include six years working as a graphic designer (12 of 20 possible points); English fluency (perfect 10 points) and being from Sweden (5 of 5 points) because it sends so few immigrants here; he would bump up to a more competitive 54 points when his brother, a permanent resident through marriage, becomes a citizen. Points against him: Not having an advanced degree, not owning his own business or working in the top five highest-demand occupations.

His story: Swimming 100 meters in just over 49 seconds made La Fleur a world-class freestyle swimmer. Sweden sent him to Athens to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games. But athletic feats give no advantage in the worldwide race for a green card.

Now a 33-year-old graphic designer with a San Francisco ad firm, La Fleur’s U.S. stay is coming to an end after 13 years, his entire adult life, first as a college student and later on a temporary H-1B work visa.

“I’m in the middle of looking for a job in Europe,” he said. “I have to leave. I’m out of here in two months.”

He would rather stay, because his parents and brother now live in the United States, but he has few options.

With just 44 points out of the 100 possible for professional workers, La Fleur would have little to show against those with higher degrees and higher-demand jobs. Still, he thinks assigning points is better than today’s system.

“It’s anchored a little bit more to reality, and how tied you are to the country and how much you could contribute if you wanted to,” he said.

If only, he said, the Senate’s classification system had “even more nuance, more details in what you could score points on.”

Karin Puertas, Panama, and Marcos Mardero, Mexico; engineering students

Points: 28 for Puertas; 44 for Mardero 

In their favor: An engineering master’s degree (10 of 15 possible points) and a job offer in a relatively high-skilled field (8 of 10 points) help make Mardero, 28, competitive; Puertas, 24, could see a similar rise in rankings as she nears graduation from the same San Jose State program. 

Points against them: Lack of U.S. work experience; no extra points for Mexico, but 5 points for being from Panama. 

Their stories: These two Latin American students are classmates studying industrial and systems engineering. 

Mardero is obtaining his master’s degree this year, so his looming graduation and a job offer put him ahead, for now, in the rankings.

Both earned full graduate scholarships from their nations on the condition that they return to work for a few years, but both also would seek permanent U.S. residency if they could.

The hardest part, Puertas said, is finding a U.S. company to sponsor her for a temporary visa: Only that would offer the work experience to make her competitive.

But both classmates might have a better, clearer alternative: The Senate bill would also grant an unlimited number of green cards for people who earn advanced U.S. degrees in science, engineering, technology or math.

Anda Gansca, Romania, tech entrepreneur

Points: 66

In her favor: Highlights include being a startup entrepreneur who employs at least two high-skilled workers (perfect 10 points): she also gets 8 points (the maximum) just for being younger than 25 (she’s 24).

Points against her: Having a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University earns her 5 points, but having a doctorate would be worth 15.

Her story: Gansca left her native Transylvania for Stanford in 2007 with a desire to “start a revolution that brings good change to people’s lives.”

She risked most of her savings after graduation to start a San Francisco company. She was lucky, she said, to obtain a five-year visa for investors.

Founded one year ago, her firm, Knotch, has designed a Yelp-like mobile app on which users rate their sentiments on topics — from sports games to politics — using a color-coded spectrum moving from hot to cold.

As the designer of an online ranking system, she was not too impressed with the Senate’s point scale.

Although she ranked highest in our group, she wonders whether the points categories are too rigid.

“People are just incredibly talented sometimes and that’s difficult to quantify,” she said.

A better system would be “more a trial or error type of thing. No one knows who’s going to be a good entrepreneur.”

Here is how two Bay Area residents fared on the 85-point scale for workers whose jobs do not require college degrees:

Sajjan Pandey, Nepal, gas station attendant

Points: 49

In his favor: Highlights include six years of full-time U.S. work (12 points), a steady job (10 points) and good work record (10 points); he’s also fluent in English (10 points) and from a country that does not send many immigrants here (5 points).

Points against him: At 58, his age gets him no points. And if the courts deny his pending claim for political asylum, he would likely have to return to Nepal and be unable to compete in the points system until he is well into his 60s.

His story: The gray-haired Pandey works the night shift at a gas station near Oakland’s airport.

“It’s an easy job for people like me,” said the Alameda resident, who once owned a popular restaurant in his hometown of Katmandu.

Pandey earns enough to pay his rent, but his seven years in the Bay Area have been lonely and on edge not knowing whether he can stay permanently.

He left his wife, sons, daughters and a 6-month-old granddaughter back home when he landed in San Francisco on a tourist visa in 2006, the last year of Nepal’s decadelong civil war. He sought political asylum saying that Maoist thugs threatened his life, but a judge denied his claim. An appeals board is reviewing the case.

The Senate bill has kindled his hopes. If deciding who gets a green card “was done quickly — just yes or no — it would be better for me,” he said. “The time factor is killing me.”

Reylla Ferraz da Silva, Brazil, housekeeper

Points: 41

In her favor: Highlights include being a primary caretaker (10 points); a good work record (10 points); knowing enough English to get by (5 of 10 points); civic involvement through her church (maximum 2 points).

Points against her: Most of her past work, paid under the table, did not count; no points either for being from Brazil, which sends many immigrants to the United States.

Her story: Da Silva’s thorough housekeeping in Peninsula homes has kept her in high demand, but immigration problems have long dogged her.

She reached a nadir in May when immigration agents jailed the nursing mother for 14 days in Richmond, keeping her from her 9-month-old son, Enzo, until a community outcry led to her release.

Few legal options exist for the 35-year-old San Bruno woman, a pastor-in-training who says more than half the congregants of her Assembly of God church share similar immigration problems. She is doubtful that the Senate’s plan will offer relief.

Even if a points system existed when she was in Brazil, her lack of U.S. work experience would have made it impossible for her to accumulate many points, she said. There are no points, she noted, for desiring freedom and liberty.

Once a low-level bureaucrat in her home state of Goias, da Silva crossed into the United States illegally and is seeking asylum because of persecution she says she experienced in Brazil.

The immigration bill’s best help for her might be its offer of 10-year probationary status for immigrants here illegally. If denied asylum and deported, she would not be eligible to apply for a green card for at least a decade.

San Jose Mercury News: Los Gatos Rotary Club Member Honored at White House Ceremony

San Jose Mercury News: Los Gatos Rotary Club Member Honored at White House Ceremony

(Editor’s note: Doug McNeil, ’83 Industrial Technology, is an SJSU alumnus.)

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News April 4, 2013

By Sal Pizarro

Monte Sereno resident Doug McNeil is the guy who keeps track of the history of the Los Gatos Morning Rotary Club. Now, he’ll have to add himself to the club’s list of historic accomplishments.

McNeil is one of 12 Rotary Club members nationwide being feted as “Champions of Change” at the White House on Friday during its second annual Rotary Day. McNeil’s being singled out for his work on the club’s Lighting for Literacy project, which provides low-cost solar lighting for communities without access to electricity.

A frequent commencement speaker for San Jose State‘s College of Engineering, McNeil grew up in Cupertino and graduated from Lynbrook High in 1977. He’s now a senior director at Kinestral Technologies in San Francisco.

The attention that the program is receiving has even gone interstellar: Astronaut Yvonne Cagle dropped in last week on students who were building some of the Lighting for Literacy units that will be installed in Colonet, Mexico next week.

Discovering Other Worlds

Discovering Other Worlds

Discovering Other Worlds

The IPPW conference will include a public lecture by Robert Manning of the Mars Science Laboratory at 5 p.m. June 18 in the Tech Museum. He will discuss the successful landing of the Curiosity rover, shown here in a self-portrait (NASA image).

Media contacts:
Pat Lopes Harris, San Jose State University, 408-656-6999
Ruth Dasso Marlaire, NASA Ames Research Center, 650-604-4709

SAN JOSE, CA – One of humankind’s most challenging ventures, sending space vehicles to other worlds, will draw 150 international experts to San Jose State University June 17-21 for the 10th International Planetary Probe Workshop. The event is co-hosted by SJSU and the NASA Ames Research Center. The conference is open to members of the media. Reporters should contact SJSU to RSVP.

“This workshop encourages international cooperation in planetary probe missions, new technologies, and scientific discoveries,” said SJSU Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Periklis Papalopoulos. “In addition, students from around the world will present their work and interact with the leaders in their discipline areas.”

Highlights will include the presentation of the Al Seiff Memorial Award to James O. Arnold. Arnold and Seiff were contemporaries, building careers around President Kennedy’s push to put a man on the moon. Both men played key roles in determining the aerodynamics and aerothermodynamics of the Apollo re-entry vehicle and other NASA space exploration missions.

This year’s keynote speaker is David Korsmeyer, director of engineering at Ames, who will discuss the past, present and future of planetary research at Ames.

Giant planets, airless bodies

The workshop also will include tours and sessions on many topics, such as missions to the “giant planets” (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune); missions to Mars; and key enabling technologies and instrumentation for missions to “airless bodies” (asteroids, comets and moons).

In addition, Ames will feature an exhibit at The Tech Museum of Innovation, featuring artifacts and models of current and previous spacecraft missions. The showcase of memorabilia will be on display June 20 – July 31.

The public is invited to view a full-size mockup of the Galileo probe (which entered Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995), test models from Ames’ Arc-Jet and Hypervelocity Free-Flight Facility and models of future satellites.

Mission to Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory Project Chief Engineer Robert Manning also will be present to discuss the successful landing of Curiosity Rover on Mars. Manning will speak at 5 p.m. June 18 at the Tech. His talk is entitled “The Challenges of Going to Mars: Mars Science Laboratory” and is open to the public.

Manning was responsible for ensuring that the design, the test program and the team would collaborate to result in a successful mission.

Sponsors include SJSU, NASA, the European Space Agency, the National Center for Advanced Small Spacecraft Technologies, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Idaho, Analytical Graphics Inc., Earthrise Space Inc. and Science and Technology Corp.


Engineering Convocation: “Architects of the Future”

Engineering Convocation: “Be Confident and Dream Big”

Dean Andrew Hsu congratulated the 750 bachelor and master’s candidates for their achievement in one of the “most challenging programs on campus.” (Stan Olszewski photo)

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers will take a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we can share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

The flash of cameras danced to the rhythm of “Pomp and Circumstance” in SJSU’s Event Center May 24 as family and friends whistled, jumped up and down, and flailed their hands to get the attention of loved one walking to their seats center-arena at the College of Engineering convocation.

Dean Andrew Hsu opened the ceremony by welcoming proud parents, family, faculty and staff members. Before turning the event over to the keynote speaker, Hsu congratulated the 750 bachelor and master’s candidates for their achievement in one of the “most challenging programs on campus.”

Hsu closed by commending graduates on their “abilities and ethics to build a career and make the world a better place” and told them to “be confident and dream big.”

In his address, Animatics Co-Founder and CEO Robert Bigler talked about the challenges he faced turning his SJSU senior project into a motion control and automation company. The key, he said, was his SJSU education and “extracting positive insight from failure.”

Bigler advised graduates to “dedicate yourself to the process and there will be no limits” and reminded them “we are in the middle of a technological renaissance; you will be architects of what will be an extremely new future,” he said.


In a recent survey, SJSU asked new grads if they would like to send a shout out to family and friends. Here are some of the responses we received from child and adolescent development majors. More will be shared at Commencement.

Drupa Desai: “I would like to give a shout out to Prof. Avtar Singh who has played a great role in my years at SJSU. He has been great motivation and inspiration.

Elnaz Morad: “Mom, you are the sun of my life, Vahid you are the sunshine of my life and Golnaz you are the joy of my life. Thanks for your support.”

Ian Lopez Aguilar: “To my wife Daisy and daughter Isabella for all the support!”

San Jose Mercury News: Local College Students Design Alternative Vehicles

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News May 12, 2013.

By Elizabeth Devitt

SAN JOSE — When local students took the challenge to design human-powered vehicles, they did more than build a bicycle — they made their futures brighter, too.

Since school started in September, two teams of seniors, majoring in mechanical engineering at San Jose State and Santa Clara universities, worked to create sustainable and practical models of alternative transportation.

“It’s easy to dream up designs that you can’t actually ride,” said Brian Lai, student treasurer of the San Jose State University American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “So this gives us a lot of practical knowledge that can’t be learned from a book.”

ASME created an annual Human Powered Vehicle Contest, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, to give students a practical design experience that’s also socially meaningful, said Dr. Mark Archibald, HPVC committee chair. The students are graded on design innovation, speed and maneuverability through an obstacle course.

The student designs were put to the test at the Human Powered Vehicle Contest held at San Jose State University and Hellyer Park Velodrome last month. Each team sent a male and female driver racing around the banked cycling track to test sprint speed. Then, there was a 21/2 hour endurance race — won by cranking out the most laps around a parking-lot course — with obstacles such as stop signs, tasks to deliver packages to simulate usefulness of vehicle, and six mandatory driver changes. Finally, judges evaluated innovative features of each entry.

Although both teams placed in the middle of the competitive pack — San Jose State came in 10th and Santa Clara placed 11th, out of 29 entries from the western states division — the experience will put all the students ahead of the game when they apply for jobs.

A core crew of three San Jose State University students, Henry Chea, Alex Houlemard and Daniel Kruusmagi, worked straight through spring break to get their steel-framed recumbent bicycle ready for competition. Chea came to the team with experience from the 2011 competition. But the stakes were higher this time, he said. The bike was everyone’s senior project and students get graded on their efforts.

Their finished entry was named Apollo, paying homage to NASA and the Moffett Field site originally slated for the event. The 62-pound bike featured a wraparound fairing made of carbon fiber and a retractable stabilizer to balance the bike during stops and starts. Unlike other recumbent bikes, this one sported a split chain ring for better mechanical advantage and an adaptive headlight system that shines along the driver’s line of vision.

“We knew we wanted a two-wheeled bike for speed,” said Houlemard, “but we studied winning bike models from previous years for successful design tips.”

The Santa Clara University team recruited its own adviser to get its project rolling. Under the guidance of engineering professor and former ASME president Terry Shoup, the nine rookie competitors focused on building an affordable bike that was stable enough to traverse any kind of territory.

Their cherry-red tricycle, dubbed Cerberus after the mythological three-headed dog, earned second place overall among the seven novice teams in the contest. The group spent less than $5,000 to make the 66-pound steel vehicle out of square, easy-to-weld parts.

The team placed eighth, overall, for best innovations. Contest rules gave them five minutes to explain unique design features that included a nonstop lighting system and the ability to store energy generated by a dynamo, a friction based device set against the rear wheel and wired to four AA batteries.

The Santa Clara team also earned an award for a well-used roll bar that protected the driver from injury during speed trials on the banked track at the velodrome. And the SJSU team was recognized for hosting the event when budget cuts forced a last-minute venue change; instead of designing a bike, 12 members of the team scrambled to manage the entire event, said Jonathan Ross, SJSU student president of ASME. The overall winner of the HPVC western division was Rose Hulman Polytechnic Institute from Indiana.

Early Career Investigator Awards

Early Career Investigator Awards

Camille Johnson from the College of Business and Juneseok Lee from the College of Engineering have received the SJSU Research Foundation Early Career Investigator Award for 2013.  Their selection is made at the recommendation of the Early Career Investigator Subcommittee of the Research Foundation Board of Directors.

“The SJSU Research Foundation Early Career Investigator Award recognizes tenure-track SJSU faculty who have excelled in areas of research, scholarship or creative activity as evidenced by their success in securing funds for their research, peer-reviewed publications and other scholarly and creative activities at an early or beginning point in their career at SJSU,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn said.

“Our two recipients are excellent examples of individuals who have achieved this level of success.”

The SJSU Research Foundation has established two Early Career Investigator Awards in order to encourage participation beyond those colleges where large numbers of faculty have traditionally participated. One award goes to a faculty member in the Colleges of Science and Engineering and another is made to a faculty member from all other colleges. Each awardee will receive a cash award of $1,000 to be used at their discretion.

Faculty Members Receive Early Career Investigator Awards

Camille Johnson

Camille Johnson, in her sixth year at SJSU, has demonstrated an outstanding record of research and scholarship in her field of social psychology. Since joining the Department of Organization and Management, Johnson successfully competed for a three-year National Science Foundation grant totaling $131,204 that has provided funding to furnish a behavioral research lab in the College of Business, furthering the research capabilities and infrastructure of SJSU’s Behavioral and Applied Research Group.  In addition, Johnson has established a strong basis for student mentoring with several of her students currently working as active researchers in industry and graduate school. Johnson has nine peer-reviewed publications, including two in top-tier journals as a first author. She has not only furthered her own research agenda, but has actively participated in the extension and support of the research culture at SJSU by serving as a mentor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Grants Academy, managing a research participant pool for all faculty, and organizing a series of research development workshops, all which serve to promote collegiality, research partnerships, and research productivity at SJSU.

Faculty Members Receive Early Career Investigator Awards

Juneseok Lee

Juneseok Lee, in his fifth year at SJSU, has been tremendously productive in his field of water resources engineering with major research focus on sustainability issues of water resources and infrastructure management.  Since joining the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, he has secured $385,399 to support his research.  His funding sources include the National Science Foundation, the California Water Service Company and Hewlett-Packard.  As an assistant professor, Lee has published seven journal articles including in The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, The Journal of American Water Works Association, and The International Water Association: Water Supply, all highly respected journals in the area of water resources engineering.  In addition, Lee has made a total of 21 presentations at professional society meetings including the American Society of Civil Engineers conferences of which 10 were published in proceedings, and has delivered five invited talks to various professional research societies. Lee obtained his California Civil Engineering Professional Engineer License in 2011 and was selected as the 2011 ASCE Fellow for Excellence in Civil Engineering Education. Lee is a nationally and internationally recognized expert in his specialized area of sustainable water resources and infrastructure management.

Enrollment Opens for Battery U. Master's Program

Enrollment Opens for Battery U.

Enrollment Opens for Battery U. Master's Program

Course topics will range from the basics of battery technology and manufacturing to overviews of market dynamics and policy considerations.

SANTA CLARA – Silicon Valley’s new “battery university” will begin offering a two-year master’s degree program this fall, a first-of-its-kind graduate degree focused on battery technologies. Enroll today.

The battery university is a collaboration between San Jose State University and CalCharge and seeks to expand the skilled workforce needed by this rapidly growing and changing industry.

“We’re really excited about this groundbreaking new program to prepare leaders in an important emerging industry,” said Ahmed Hambaba, Associate Dean of Graduate and Extended Studies in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State.

“When we first started talking about a ‘battery university,’ it was going to start out as a professional training program. But the response has been so overwhelming, the College of Engineering decided to offer a master’s-level program instead.”

Course topics will range from the basics of battery technology and manufacturing to overviews of market dynamics and policy considerations. Designed to include opportunities for hands-on experience, students will be able to conduct research and market analysis projects with local battery firms. Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will contribute instructors to the program.

“Our battery scientists at Berkeley Lab are among the best in the nation,” said Venkat Srinivasan, head of the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a founding partner of CalCharge. “As a national lab, training the next generation of scientists is one of our missions. To make better batteries we need innovation at every level. Having a workforce trained in the art and science of making batteries is critical to achieving breakthroughs and expanding the number of companies operating here in the U.S.”

Stackable Certificates

The program will initially accommodate up to 30 students who will take classes through San Jose State University’s Extended Studies program via the College of Engineering. Courses can be taken to complete a series of nested certificate programs or for a full master’s of Science in engineering with an emphasis in battery technology. Working professionals may also elect to take single classes of interest through the program duration as non-matriculated, Open University students. A full list of classes and descriptions is available on SJSU’s Graduate & Extended Studies website.

“Battery technology companies are increasingly confronted by a serious lack of trained professionals to get the job done,” said Jeff Anderson, interim Executive Director of CalCharge and managing director of CalCEF, a group of organizations promoting the development of a clean-energy economy. “The greatest challenge to California’s energy-storage industry is that we don’t have enough skilled workers to take an idea from innovation to infrastructure, which is critical to commercializing, manufacturing, and scaling new technologies.”

Industry experts and investors greeted news of battery university earlier this year with enthusiasm. “Great idea,” tweeted Bill Gates.

About CalCharge

CalCharge, a partnership of CalCEF, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and SLAC has been formed to accelerate the development of a thriving energy storage cluster in California. CalCharge brings together emerging and established California based battery technology developers, national labs and universities, major end users, and other stakeholders focused on energy storage applications. Through CalCharge these diverse stakeholders can collaborate, identify barriers to emerging technology success, develop solutions, and gain access to the resources that help clear the path to commercialization. Its programs and initiatives help to accelerate the development of new technologies, address gaps in workforce proficiency, facilitate business strategy and policy innovation, and enhance the community and identity of this growing sector.

About San Jose State University

San Jose State University, the oldest public institution of higher education on the West Coast, is the number one supplier of education, engineering, computer science and business graduates to Silicon Valley, the world’s high tech capital. SJSU is ranked in the top 15 master’s-level public universities in the West by U.S. News & World Report in its annual survey of “America’s Best Colleges.” Also, the US News and World report recently ranked the College of Engineering third nationally among state schools, and 17th nationally among non-PhD schools (2013).

About Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

About CalCEF

CalCEF works to promote the transition to a clean energy economy by creating institutions and investment vehicles that grow markets for clean energy technologies. CalCEF is a non-profit umbrella organization that pursues statewide and national agendas via 1) CalCEF Innovations, a 501(c)(3) that leads CalCEF’s analysis and product development; and 2) CalCEF Ventures, a 501(c)(4) that executes and scales the CalCEF investment strategy via a fund-of-funds model, partnering with leading investment managers.


New York Times: Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden

Posted by the New York Times April 29, 2013.

By Tamar Lewin

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Dazzled by the potential of free online college classes, educators are now turning to the gritty task of harnessing online materials to meet the toughest challenges in American higher education: giving more students access to college, and helping them graduate on time.

Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States arrive on campus needing remedial work before they can begin regular credit-bearing classes. That early detour can be costly, leading many to drop out, often in heavy debt and with diminished prospects of finding a job.

Meanwhile, shrinking state budgets have taken a heavy toll at public institutions, reducing the number of seats available in classes students must take to graduate. In California alone, higher education cuts have left hundreds of thousands of college students without access to classes they need.

To address both problems and keep students on track to graduation, universities are beginning to experiment with adding the new “massive open online courses,” created to deliver elite college instruction to anyone with an Internet connection, to their offerings.

While the courses, known as MOOCs, have enrolled millions of students around the world, most who enroll never start a single assignment, and very few complete the courses. So to reach students who are not ready for college-level work, or struggling with introductory courses, universities are beginning to add extra supports to the online materials, in hopes of improving success rates.

Here at San Jose State, for example, two pilot programs weave material from the online classes into the instructional mix and allow students to earn credit for them.

“We’re in Silicon Valley, we breathe that entrepreneurial air, so it makes sense that we are the first university to try this,” said Mohammad Qayoumi, the university’s president. “In academia, people are scared to fail, but we know that innovation always comes with the possibility of failure. And if it doesn’t work the first time, we’ll figure out what went wrong and do better.”

In one pilot program, the university is working with Udacity, a company co-founded by a Stanford professor, to see whether round-the-clock online mentors, hired and trained by the company, can help more students make their way through three fully online basic math courses.

The tiny for-credit pilot courses, open to both San Jose State students and local high school and community college students, began in January, so it is too early to draw any conclusions. But early signs are promising, so this summer, Udacity and San Jose State are expanding those classes to 1,000 students, and adding new courses in psychology and computer programming, with tuition of only $150 a course.

San Jose State has already achieved remarkable results with online materials from edX, a nonprofit online provider, in its circuits course, a longstanding hurdle for would-be engineers. Usually, two of every five students earn a grade below C and must retake the course or change career plans. So last spring, Ellen Junn, the provost, visited Anant Agarwal, an M.I.T. professor who taught a free online version of the circuits class, to ask whether San Jose State could become a living lab for his course, the first offering from edX, an online collaboration of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ms. Junn hoped that blending M.I.T.’s online materials with live classroom sessions might help more students succeed. Dr. Agarwal, the president of edX, agreed enthusiastically, and without any formal agreement or exchange of money, he arranged for San Jose State to offer the blended class last fall.

The results were striking: 91 percent of those in the blended section passed, compared with 59 percent in the traditional class.

“We’re engineers, and we check our results, but if this semester is similar, we will not have the traditional version next year,” said Khosrow Ghadiri, who teaches the blended class. “It would be educational malpractice.”

It is hard to say, though, how much the improved results come from the edX online materials, and how much from the shift to classroom sessions focusing on small group projects, rather than lectures.

Finding better ways to move students through the start of college is crucial, said Josh Jarrett, a higher education officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which in the past year has given grants to develop massive open online courses for basic and remedial courses.

“For us, 2012 was all about trying to tilt some of the MOOC attention toward the more novice learner, the low-income and first-generation students,” he said. “And 2013 is about blending MOOCs into college courses where there is additional support, and students can get credit. While some low-income young adults can benefit from what I call the free-range MOOCs, the research suggests that most are going to need more scaffolding, more support.”

Until now, there has been little data on how well the massive online courses work, and for which kinds of students. Blended courses provide valuable research data because outcomes can easily be compared with those from a traditional class. “The results in the San Jose circuits course are probably the most interesting data point in the whole MOOC movement,” Mr. Jarrett said.

Said Dr. Junn, “We want to bring all the hyperbole around MOOCs down to reality, and really see at a granular level that’s never before been available, how well they work for underserved students.”

Online courses are undeniably chipping at the traditional boundaries of higher education. Until now, most of the millions of students who register for them could not earn credit for their work. But that is changing, and not just at San Jose State. The three leading providers, Udacity, EdX and Coursera, are all offering proctored exams, and in some cases, certification for transfer credit through the American Council on Education.

Last month, in a controversial proposal, the president pro tem of the California Senate announced the introduction of legislation allowing students in the state’s public colleges and universities who cannot get a seat in oversubscribed lower-level classes to earn credit for faculty-approved online versions, including those from private vendors like edX and Udacity.

And on Wednesday, San Jose State announced that next fall, it will pay a licensing fee to offer three to five more blended edX courses, probably including Harvard’s “Ancient Greek Heroes” and Berkeley’s”Artificial Intelligence.” And over the summer, it will train 11 other California State campuses to use the blended M.I.T. circuits course.

Dr. Qayoumi favors the blended model for upper-level courses, but fully online courses like Udacity’s for lower-level classes, which could be expanded to serve many more students at low cost. Traditional teaching will be disappearing in five to seven years, he predicts, as more professors come to realize that lectures are not the best route to student engagement, and cash-strapped universities continue to seek cheaper instruction.

“There may still be face-to-face classes, but they would not be in lecture halls,” he said. “And they will have not only course material developed by the instructor, but MOOC materials and labs, and content from public broadcasting or corporate sources. But just as faculty currently decide what textbook to use, they will still have the autonomy to choose what materials to include.”

While San Jose State professors decided what material should be covered in the three Udacity math courses, it was Udacity employees who determined the course look and flow — and, in most cases, appeared on camera.

“We gave them lecture notes and a textbook, and they ‘Udacified’ things, and wrote the script, which we edited,” said Susan McClory, San Jose State’s developmental math coordinator. “We made sure they used our way of finding a common denominator.”

The online mentors work in shifts at Udacity’s offices in nearby Mountain View, Calif., waiting at their laptops for the “bing” that signals a question, and answering immediately.

“We get to hear the ‘aha’ moments, and these all-caps messages ‘THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU,’ ” said Rachel Meltzer, a former clinical research manager at Stanford and mentor who is starting medical school next fall.

The mentors answer about 30 questions a day, like how to type the infinity symbol or add unlike fractions — or, occasionally, whether Ms. Meltzer is interested in a date. The questions appear in a chat box on-screen, but tutoring can move to a whiteboard, or even a live conversation. When many students share confusion, mentors provide feedback to the instructors.

The San Jose State professors were surprised at the speed with which the project came together.

“The first word was in November, and it started in January,” said Ronald Rogers, one of the statistics professors. “Academics usually form a committee for months before anything happens.”

But Udacity’s approach was appealing.

“What attracted us to Udacity was the pedagogy, that they break things into very small segments, then ask students to figure things out, before you’ve told them the answer,” said Dr. Rogers, who spends an hour a day reading comments on the discussion forum for students in the worldwide version of the class.

Results from the pilot for-credit version with the online mentors will not be clear until after the final exams, which will be proctored by webcam.

But one good sign is that, in the pilot statistics course, every student, including a group of high school students from an Oakland charter school, completed the first, unproctored exam.

“We’re approaching this as an empirical question,” Dr. Rogers said. “If the results are good, then we’ll scale it up, which would be very good, given how much unmet demand we have at California public colleges.”

Any wholesale online expansion raises the specter of professors being laid off, turned into glorified teaching assistants or relegated to second-tier status, with only academic stars giving the lectures. Indeed, the faculty unions at all three California higher education systems oppose the legislation requiring credit for MOOCs for students shut out of on-campus classes. The state, they say, should restore state financing for public universities, rather than turning to unaccredited private vendors.

But with so many students lacking access, others say, new alternatives are necessary.

“I’m involved in this not to destroy brick-and-mortar universities, but to increase access for more students,” Dr. Rogers said.

And if short videos and embedded quizzes with instant feedback can improve student outcomes, why should professors go on writing and delivering their own lectures?

“Our ego always runs ahead of us, making us think we can do it better than anyone else in the world,” Dr. Ghadiri said. “But why should we invent the wheel 10,000 times? This is M.I.T., No. 1 school in the nation — why would we not want to use their material?”

There are, he said, two ways of thinking about what the MOOC revolution portends: “One is me, me, me — me comes first. The other is, we are not in this business for ourselves, we are here to educate students.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 30, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the institution from which Rachel Meltzer, a mentor for the online provider Coursera, graduated. It was Washington University in St. Louis, not Stanford (where Ms. Meltzer worked a clinical research manager).

Driver in racecar prepares to drive away as man waves green flag

Spartan Racing Charges Toward 2013 Races

For the dedicated members of Spartan Racing, the SJSU student chapter of  Society of Automotive Engineers International, what drives them is a strong passion as they set their sights on the finish line.

During a 10-month cycle each year, specific teams focus on designing, building, testing and preparing one of three types of vehicles for competitions. New this year is an all-electric vehicle, in addition to a formula race car with a combustion engine and an off-road baja vehicle. Upcoming competitions against other universities will take place within the next few months.

The opportunity to become part of Spartan Racing is what attracted some students to their chosen major or, in the case of senior mechanical engineering major Tom Stroud, the university itself.

“I think the formula team is the biggest reason why I decided to go to San Jose State,” said Stroud, who is team manager of the inaugural electric team. “I got into a few engineering programs, and I chose this one to be on the team, so that was one of the deciding factors for going to this school.”

Formula SAE Unveils 2013 Car 

Formula SAE is hosting a party on April 26 in San Jose where the students will showcase their latest open-wheel car. Interested attendees can register here for the free event. The group will also raise funds at the party for its upcoming races by selling food, drinks and T-shirts.

Vince Donatini, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, heard about Spartan Racing through a welcome barbeque during his first week as a SJSU student. He worked his way up to become the current Formula SAE team manager and has helped organized this event.

“Besides the sponsors, we’re also thanking our friends, family and parents especially for giving us the option to go to college,” Donatini said, “where without San Jose State, without our parents, without anyone else we have in our lives, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do a project that impacts our lives so heavily.”

Gaining Hands-On Experience

In addition to engineering, students from any major can become part of Spartan Racing, bringing their specialized skills and knowledge to these projects. For instance, the non-racing portions of the competitions, known as static events, include creating and pitching a business proposal to market the vehicle, defending design decisions on paper and in front of judges and writing a report about the vehicle’s costs.

“I think it’s important to note that you don’t have to be an engineer to be on the team,” Stroud said. “Everybody is welcome.”

Donatini said they sometimes describe this extracurricular activity to prospective members as “a job or internship that you can’t get fired from.”

“You’ll make your mistakes here, so once you graduate, we’ll hopefully give you the skills that you need in industry,” he said.

Chronicle of Higher Education: The Digital Campus 2013–Learning From Big Business

Posted by the Chronicle of Higher Education April 29, 2013.

The Idea Makers: Ten Tech Innovators 2013

What are the biggest ideas in education technology this year, and who’s driving them? For the second year in a row, The Chronicle has identified a group of key innovators who are rebooting the academy, and we’ve profiled 10 of them on the pages that follow. This is not an endorsement of their projects: In some cases, the subjects of the profiles disagree with one another on how best to change higher education. But all of the people you’ll meet here think technology could break established molds and help students learn more effectively, researchers make discoveries more easily, and colleges operate more efficiently. Earlier this year we invited readers and higher-education leaders to submit their nominations for this project, and we received more than 125 entries. Ultimately, the selections were made by a group of Chronicle editors and reporters, with a goal of considering innovators in various sectors.

By Jeffrey R. Young

Mohammad H. Qayoumi thinks public universities should take a lesson from Wal-Mart—a view that might sound strange coming from a university president.

But Mr. Qayoumi, who leads San Jose State University, is referring to the retail giant’s ability to continually expand both its brick-and-mortar stores and its online services. “It has the biggest stores all over the country, but it is also really active in e-commerce,” he says. “It’s not an either/or, it’s an issue of how we can really bring a blend of the two together.”

Mr. Qayoumi is trying a similar blending on his campus. He is experimenting with using massive open online courses, or MOOCs, both to bring down the cost of delivering classes on his campus and to let high-school students and others get a head start on college—on the cheap.

For his first goal of cutting costs, the university teamed up with edX, the nonprofit MOOC provider started by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to offer a “circuits and electronics” course in which students watched free lectures made by MIT professors as homework and attended class discussions with instructors at San Jose State.

The experiment violated a basic premise of college teaching—that every professor should create and deliver his or her own lectures.

“How different is the basic algebra course taught in Boston, or California, or wherever?” asks Mr. Qayoumi.

To help provide a cheaper online-only option, the university forged a partnership with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider. In a pilot project, the company worked with professors at the university to create three introductory mathematics classes. The courses are free online, but students who want credit from San Jose State can take them for just $150, far less than the $450 to $750 that students would typically pay for a credit-bearing course.

Both moves are part of Mr. Qayoumi’s plan to “reinvent” public universities. He has laid out that vision in a series of reports that call for public colleges to use technology to produce more graduates while spending less money. In one, he suggests that some high-school students might take a year’s worth of courses as MOOCs before even coming to a college campus.

Some professors question the president’s notion that colleges should look to industry for inspiration. “It almost treats students like they’re industrial products, like ‘How many widgets can we get through those programs?'” said David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media at the University of Texas at Dallas, in an interview this year after San Jose State announced its project with Udacity.

Mr. Qayoumi, though, sees the move to online learning as a way to actually improve the quality of education. In large lecture classes, he says, people romanticize the classroom experience and overstate the effectiveness of the chalk-and-talk format. When professors give monologues to a room of 120 students, few actually interact with the sage on the stage.

So far, data are proving him right. In his experiment with the edX circuits class, 91 percent of the students who watched the lecture videos from MIT passed, while only 55 percent and 59 percent passed in the two traditional sections offered as control groups.

The president compares higher education today to the railroad industry in the 1940s and 50s: Companies that stubbornly clung to the view that they were in the railroad business failed, while those that diversified, considering their mission as transportation in whatever form, thrived.

“How can we really help our students be successful?” he asks. “How can we be this cradle of creativity and an intellectual center of new ideas and new knowledge?”

“We are a learning enterprise,” he says. And he’s willing to abandon the old rails of traditional instruction.

Mr. Qayoumi, 60, grew up in Afghanistan and trained as an engineer at the American University of Beirut. He did his doctoral thesis at the University of Cincinnati on how to rethink electrical systems to make them more efficient.

He worked in industry for several years—as an engineer in the Middle East—which he credits for giving him his business-minded approach to college leadership.

In the mid-80s he became associate vice president for administration at San Jose State, and held administrative positions at two other California institutions before becoming president of California State University-East Bay, in 2006. He took over the top job at San Jose State two years ago.

He has also played a role in the rebuilding of his homeland, serving as senior adviser to the minister of finance of Afghanistan, from 2002 to 2005, and as a board member of the Central Bank of Afghanistan, from 2003 to 2006.

His reports and his experiments with MOOCs have recently brought him into the national spotlight. He has presented his ideas to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Gov. Jerry Brown of California has taken an interest in his projects.

Mr. Qayoumi often talks as if he’s running a start-up technology company rather than a state university. “We would like to move as fast as we can,” he says of his plans. “We want to fail fast, learn from it, and move on.”

What would he say to someone who worries that too much fast failing could undo his esteemed university?

“I don’t see them as radical,” he says of his projects. “It’s not that we’re changing the entire university.”

But he does feel a sense of urgency for his reforms. “Isn’t it about time that something should change?” he asks. “From the day that chalk and a blackboard were invented, how much change has really been made? We need to move far faster than what we have been comfortable” with up to now, he says.


CNBC: Immigration Reform–What’s at Stake for Tech?

CNBC: Immigration Reform: What's at Stake for Tech?

CNBC: Immigration Reform: What’s at Stake for Tech?

Posted by CNBC April 13, 2013.

Spurred by Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s April 10 op-ed in the Washington Post, CNBC produced this story examining immigration reform and the tech sector. “We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants. And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world,” Zuckerberg writes. “Why do we kick out the more than 40 percent of math and science graduate students who are not U.S. citizens after educating them?” He goes on to argue for “comprehensive immigration reform that begins with effective border security, allows a path to citizenship and lets us attract the most talented and hardest-working people, no matter where they were born.” CNBC Technology Correspondent Jon Fortt invites viewers inside an engineering classroom at San Jose State, where students say “a lot of companies would not take them if they are not citizens even though they are well educated.”