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.

Charles. W. Davidson College of Engineering Dean Appointed

Dr. Sheryl Ehrman

Dr. Sheryl Ehrman

Dr. Sheryl H. Ehrman has been appointed as dean of SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, effective July 3.

Ehrman joins San Jose State University from the University of Maryland, College Park where she has served as Keystone professor and chair of the Department of Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering since 2010. She has worked at the university since 1998 as a faculty member. As chair, she oversaw an expansion of tenure-track faculty, development of two new BS/MS programs, the growth of the transfer student pathway, initiation of a multidisciplinary research center for advanced battery technology, and development and implementation of strategies to engage alumni and industrial partners.

She received a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara and went on to complete a doctoral degree in chemical engineering in the major field of aerosol science and technology and the minor field of atmospheric science at UCLA. She is a licensed professional engineer in the state of Maryland.

Ehrman served as a visiting scientist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Maryland and as a National Science Foundation-sponsored post-doctoral fellow at the Paul. Scherrer Institute, in Switzerland. In 2006, she was named a Fulbright Scholar and visiting associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, where she engaged with students and faculty in the Department of Chemical Engineering. She served as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador from 2013-16.

During the search process, Ehrman expressed a passion for research, a proven ability to create industry partnerships and an aspiration to foster a diversity of ideas. Most importantly she possesses the skills to build student engagement and support student success at SJSU.


Candidates for Dean Of Engineering Visit Oct. 17-21

The College of Engineering Dean Search Committee is pleased to announce four candidates for the position of dean in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering with dates of their campus visits. Students, staff and faculty are invited to attend Open Forums that will allow campus community members to hear from and ask questions of each candidate. Campus community members will have an opportunity to provide feedback on each candidate to the search committee. The Forums are scheduled as follows:

Dr. Godfrey Mungal

Dean of Engineering and Sobrato Professor, Santa Clara University

Mon. Oct. 17, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, Engr. 285/287

Dr. Stacy Gleixner

Interim AVP, Student Academic Success Services and Professor, Biomedical, Chemical and Materials Engineering, San Jose State University

Wed. Oct. 19, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, Engr. 285/287

Dr. Sheryl Ehrman

Keystone Professor and Chair, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Maryland

Thurs. Oct. 20, 2:00 – 3:00 pm, Engr. 285/287

Dr. Theodosios Alexander

Director, Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations, Saint Louis University and Former Dean of Parks College, Saint Louis University

Fri. Oct. 21, 10:00 – 11:00 am, Engr. 488

Candidate’s biographies and evaluation forms will be distributed at the open forum. The presentations will be videotaped and available for viewing after the last presentation.


College of Engineering Dean Search Committee

Muhammed Chaudhry

Molly Crowe

Yasser Dessouky

Khalil Estell

Rod Fatoohi

Claire Komives

David Parent

Michael Parrish, committee chair

Xiao Su

SJSU Featured in NBC’s 12 Degrees of Inspiration Series

San Jose State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering is featured in NBC Bay Area’s 12 Degrees of Inspiration Series. The videos highlight the college’s Engineering Pathways to Success program, including the Excellence in your Engineering Education (EXCEED) program featured in the first video. A second video will begin airing in the summer and a third in the fall.

SJSU Takes Second in Concrete Canoe Competition


A team of San Jose State students from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering took second place overall in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Mid-Pacific Regional Conference Concrete Canoe competition April 8 and 9 at the University of Nevada in Reno. The team was led by Hester Yu.

The conference includes competitions such as building a Concrete Canoe, a tradition in which civil engineering schools across the West Coast and international schools spar to create the best vessel. The ASCE Concrete Canoe competition challenges schools to design, build, present and race a canoe made of concrete. In addition to placing second overall, SJSU’s team placed second in final product, second in races and third in design report. The Mid-Pacific region includes fierce competition, but SJSU was able best competitors such as the University of California, Berkeley and Tongji University, from China.

Working with Faculty Advisor Akthem Al-Manaseer, the Spartan team included more than 25 students from seven engineering disciplines who spent the school year designing, constructing and finishing their canoe. The team raised more than $9,000 from local sponsors, alumni and engineering firms for construction and material costs. The team’s canoe, Axiom, highlights the theme of geometry and recaptures the importance of building a strong foundation for future teams by focusing on the fundamentals.

Barely missing a spot to compete in the national competition, the SJSU Concrete Canoe team is seeking to take center stage again next year. The team is working once again to secure resources and sponsorship while recruiting members for next year. To learn more about the team or to see the canoe, email canoe@sjsuasce.org.