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

February 2016 Newsletter: Study Grant Aims to Improve Resources for Vietnamese Dementia Caregivers

Dr. Van Ta Park shares her background as a Vietnamese refugee and the role of personal connection in improving resources for dementia caregivers.

Dr. Van Ta Park shares her background as a Vietnamese refugee and the role of personal connection in improving resources for dementia caregivers.

As a refugee from Vietnam, Dr. Van Ta Park, an associate professor in the Department of Health Science and Recreation in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, has a unique understanding of the challenges that face family caregivers.

“We escaped by boat, but I was very young so I have no recollection,” Ta Park said. “My parents shared stories with me of the refugee camps and the violence…For a lot of refugees this experience follows them in their everyday lives.”

Ta Park has received a grant for $150,000 over three years from the Alzheimer’s Association to develop culturally-tailored mental health resources to support Vietnamese American dementia caregivers. San Jose has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the nation. Among Vietnamese Americans, 68 percent are foreign born and 87.5 percent speak another language other than English at home. Prior research, including Ta Park’s, have shown that Vietnamese Americans are less likely to utilize mental health services compared to the general population, which is concerning as caring for a family member with dementia is associated with higher rates of depression than in the general population.

William Fisher, the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter, presented Ta Park with a check for her grant on Feb. 19. He noted that grant proposals are selected through a peer evaluation process, with the top eight percent of proposals receiving funding. Ta Park was one of only two scientists to receive the Mentored New Investigator Research Grant to Promote Diversity (MNIRGD). She will be working with her mentors, Dr. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson and Dr. Gwen Yeo from Stanford University, School of Medicine, and will work closely with the Vietnamese American community.

Before receiving the Alzheimer’s Association grant, Ta Park received funding for a qualitative study from SJSU and her college that allowed her to interview mental healthcare providers who work with the Vietnamese population to understand the way they used existing services and the best way to reach clients.

“I found consistently that they recommended incorporating spirituality and the need to ask personal questions as well as allowing them to ask personal questions,” Ta Park said.

Through this input, Ta Park is developing a face-to-face, cognitive behavioral skill training program that will meet at the homes of Vietnamese caregivers in small groups, with five to six caregivers at a time. The participants will be divided into two groups: 30 people in the control group will receive existing resources from the Alzheimer’s Association website that have been translated from English into Vietnamese, and the other 30 will receive newly developed resources that have been created specifically for the program. All participants will be recruited through community organizations that serve local Vietnamese residents.

To support the research, Ta Park has recruited bilingual and bicultural Vietnamese SJSU students to be research assistants.

“I see the language barrier,” Trieu Vy Nguyen, ’16 Health Science student. “There is a lack of resources. I want to be involved to have a positive impact on their quality of life.”

SJSU receives First in the World grant

A student works in a chemical engineering lab at SJSU. Photo by Bob Bains.

A student works in a chemical engineering lab at SJSU.
Photo by Bob Bains.

San Jose State University is one of 17 colleges and universities in the nation to receive a First in the World grant from the United States Department of Education.

The $3 million grant will support the university-wide priority of improving student success. The grant proposal focused on strengthening foundational science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes to improve retention and graduation rates with an emphasis on high-impact practices such as training faculty on active learning and flipped classrooms.

SJSU’s grant application was selected from more than 300 submissions nationwide for a share of the $60 million.

“We all know that innovation can take many forms and as a key part of the Administration’s goal to promote college access and affordability, the First in the World program aims to support a wide range of innovation to improve student success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a press release. “We are pleased to support these educational leaders who are driving exciting innovations to achieve those goals.”

The grant will be administered through the SJSU Research Foundation with Provost Andy Feinstein serving as the principal investigator working collaboratively with faculty in STEM disciplines.

The competition this year solicited applications in focus areas that included improving teaching and learning, improving student support services, developing and using new assessments of learning and improving success in developmental education. The 17 recipients are from 14 states, including CSU Los Angeles.