Students Compete in Innovation Challenge

Students present their ideas at the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge Showcase Nov. 19 in the Student Union (Robert C. Bain photo).

Students present their ideas at the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge Showcase Nov. 19 in the Student Union (Robert C. Bain photo).

Registering for classes at a university as large and complicated as San Jose State can be like solving a complex puzzle.

That’s where the college scheduling application Saryan comes in. What used to take a few hours now takes a few minutes for the app’s 900 unique users.

Created by student entrepreneurs Sargon Jacob, ’15 Business Administration, and Bryan Miller, ’17 Computer Science, the fledgling business won first place in the Best Overall Innovation category of the 2014 Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge.

Organized annually by the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, SVIC promotes creativity and entrepreneurship by generating and showcasing innovative business ideas.

This year, the ideas ranged from the edible (FarmersAreHere tells you where to find farmers’ markets) to the technical (wireless charging for your electric cars).

The Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge is a great event for students from all across the university, plus our international partners, because it gives them the opportunity to develop ‘ideation’ skills in an area of interest,” said Bill Nance, SVIC director and professor of Management Information Systems.

This is exactly how it what happened for Jacob. He came up with the idea for his app based on a personal experience.

“I typically spent, in totality each semester, at least 10 to 14 hours scheduling my classes over a few days,” Jacob said. “I knew this was an issue.”

After conducting research, he learned many other students struggled to find the right classes at the right times. He reached out to Miller for technical assistance, and to his professors for overall support.

Sargon Jacob (center) received first  first place in the Best Overall Innovation category of the 2014 Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge (Robert C. Bain photo).

Sargon Jacob (center) with Dean David M. Steele and SVIC Director and Professor Bill Nance (Robert C. Bain photo).

“I have been extremely fortunate to be able to get access to professors in the MIS department,” Jacob said. “Richard Sessions was extremely influential early on. He introduced me to Bill Nance, who has been very supportive.

“Both professors literally opened their doors to me. Without them, Bryan and I would not have pursued this project with such intensity. At our peak, we each dedicated around 60 hours a week — with me, a full-time student, and Bryan, a part-time student with a day job.”

SVIC recruits more than twenty judges to evaluate all the ideas, provide feedback and select finalists as well as winners, many of whom drew their ideas from college life.

From Bike Commuters to Entrepreneurs

Four electrical engineering majors refined their plan to provide blinkers to bicyclists based on their commutes.

“Most of us bike from campus to our apartments after school, so we implemented things that we thought would be crucial for our safety,” said Vignesh Ramachandran, ’14 Electrical Engineering.

And so Night Square was born, with assistance from Professor of Electrical Engineering Ping Hsu.

Ramachandran and teammates Aaron Romero, Pratiek Pathak and Travis Johnson designed the flexible 15-by-15-inch LED display for bicyclists to wear on their backs, making the bikers more visible at night.

A student demonstrates Night Square during the Elevator Pitch Competition (Robert C. Bain photo).

Vignesh Ramachandran presents Night Square during the Elevator Pitch Competition (Robert C. Bain photo).

“Buttons on the bike’s handle bar will allow the Night Square to display right and left turn arrows and brake signals,” Ramachandran said. “Also, there are buzzers that will be placed conveniently near each ear so that the rider will know which turn signal is on, similar to the ticking from car turn signals.”

The Night Square prototype was an eye-catcher at the SVIC Showcase Nov. 19 in the Student Union Ballroom, and it received second place in the Best Overall Innovation category. The team has big dreams for Night Square.

Our plans for the future are to take this as far as possible,” Ramachandran said. “Our goal is to incorporate and sell this product to our target market.”

His thinking reflects the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge’s goals.

“Students learn how to present their ideas to experienced innovators and entrepreneurs, who provides feedback they can use to enhance or extend their initial ideas,” Nance said.

“It’s fascinating to watch the students grow through the event, as they learn to refine their explanations and pitch their projects.”

Spartans at Work: At Cisco, “I am Finding There are No Limits to What I Can Achieve”

Spartans at Work: At Cisco, “I am Finding There are No Limits to What I Can Achieve”

Female Cisco student dressed in a black jacket and turquiose shirt is standing with arms opened in front of a giant Cisco sign

Tanya D’Silva, a business major with a concentration in Management Information Systems, works on a team that helps businesses’ IT departments implement Cisco’s Operating Model framework (Peter Caravalho photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with the Class of 2013’s Tanya D’Silva.)

After giving her resume to Cisco at a SJSU job fair and applying for an internship position through Sparta Jobs, Tanya D’Silva, a business major with a concentration in Management Information Systems, wasn’t sure that her five years of restaurant experience was enough to land an internship at the prestigious company. What seemed like a long shot turned out to be the opportunity of a lifetime.

“They took a leap of faith in me, trusting that I would do well in this environment,” D’Silva said. “If you are active around campus, and prove that you are well-rounded and are eager to learn, you have as good of a shot as anyone else.”

D’Silva is an IT analyst intern, working in Cisco’s Enterprise Release Management Organization within Connected IT Services.  She works on a team that helps businesses’ IT departments implement Cisco’s Operating Model framework in order to move information from data center to data center.

Getting the Most Out of Her Internship

Cisco, one of the largest employers in Silicon Valley, is a multinational leader in designing, manufacturing and selling networking equipment. The corporation was founded in 1984 in San Francisco but is now based in San Jose.

D’Silva says her two-month internship is teaching her the “ins and outs” of a corporation and helping her figure out her future goals.

“Since I am contemplating management positions or becoming a project manager, the team I am working on is helping me to see how the business operates and the various functions of a company,” D’Silva said.

D’Silva says she wishes she found out earlier that being a 4.0 student isn’t the only way to achieve a good job. According to her, what she’s learning in the classroom and what she takes with her into the work world is what counts.

“I am finding there are no limits to what I can achieve. My internship is what I make of it. If I choose to stay immersed in intern activities and take on more projects then I will get more out of my internship experience,” D’Silva said.

San Jose Mercury News: Business Instructor Comments on SOPA/PIPA

Wikipedia and other websites shut down to protest online piracy bill

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News Jan. 17, 2011.

By Patrick May

As Wikipedia and other websites go dark Wednesday in what backers are calling the largest Internet protest ever, the epic battle between Silicon Valley and Hollywood over online anti-piracy legislation continues to heat up, even as many Web surfers scratch their heads over what it all means.

The fight is over the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill now stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives that’s aimed at stopping the spread of pirated copies of movies and other content by “rogue” websites overseas. Heavyweight supporters of SOPA such as Time Warner and the Motion Picture Association of America are butting up against tech titans such as Wikipedia, Google (GOOG) and Facebook, which argue that the legislation could lead to widespread censorship.

Here is a guide to help understand SOPA and a parallel bill in the Senate called the Protect IP Act:

Q What is SOPA?

A Backers say the bill is necessary to rein in copyright infringement, specifically from pirate sites outside the United States, by essentially cutting off their oxygen supply, says Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University and a neutral observer in the debate.

“We can’t send in the feds to bust them,” he said, “and the intellectual property, or IP, owners can’t go after them in U.S. court. So these bills create ways to marginalize websites by cutting off their domain name or their money supply, doing things like requiring credit-card companies to stop making payments to the sites and require ad networks to drop them as customers.”

Q Aren’t there already laws that punish online pirates?

A The 1998

Digital Millennium Copyright Act does provide enforcement measures. For example, if someone uploads a copyrighted song to YouTube, the act gives the song’s rights holder the ability to send a notice demanding the site remove it. In this case, YouTube must let the offending uploader know the song has been flagged, and that person in turn could object and even appeal the matter in court.

But SOPA proponents say that because the copyright act doesn’t have the legal teeth to bite down on overseas offenders, new legislation is crucial if made-in-the-U.S.A. content is to be protected in the global wilderness of the Internet.

Q Why would anyone have a problem with such a law?

A Much of the controversy lies in the legislation’s vague, even esoteric language. And as Goldman points out, “the intermediaries like the credit-card companies may not be as careful as the law requires them to be, and they could cut off a legitimate website that they mistook as a rogue. These intermediaries doing the dirty work could make mistakes.”

Q Why are the two sides so adamant about their positions on the bills?

A Tiffiniy Cheng, director of online-freedom advocacy group Fight for the Future, says both the SOPA and the Senate bill as written “give corporations too much power to take down entire sites over what they consider a copyright infringement. And the language in the bills is really vague when it comes to ‘enabling copyright infringement.’ ”

Cheng says the vagaries of the legislation could encourage credit-card companies and ad networks to “go on the safe side and comply with all requests from rights owners to shut down a site, even if it’s not really doing anything wrong. Plus, it could lead other sites to self-censor their posts to risk even the chance of liability.”

But in a statement supporting SOPA, the Motion Picture Association of America points out that “the potential harm from rogue sites — exposure to malware, identity theft, unsafe and untested medicines and other counterfeit products, and lost jobs and income for creative workers — is profound. Too much is at stake for us to allow rogue sites and those who operate them to continue to steal creative works with impunity.”

Q Who are the online protesters and what do they hope to achieve?

A is joining Reddit, Wikipedia, Mozilla and thousands of other sites, many of them in Silicon Valley, in a show of opposition to what they call “Internet censorship legislation that threatens free speech and technology innovation on the Internet.”

Cheng said more than 7,000 websites have agreed to take some sort of online action to rally opposition to the two bills, with Wikipedia planning to go dark for 24 hours starting 9 p.m. PST Tuesday. Other sites, including Mountain View-based Google, planned to issue protest statements on their home pages.

Q What’s the political prognosis for the legislation?

A Both bills are currently tied up in Congress, with the Senate bill on hold while SOPA’s fate is pending action by the House Judiciary Committee. More shadows loom after the Obama administration issued a statement saying, “We will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”

San Jose State business professor Jeffrey Gaines suspects both bills are “dead on arrival until after the November election because of intense lobbying on both sides. We may eventually see a boiled-down version that targets some of the more controversial issues in the bills. But when lawmakers try to legislate individual issues like this, the net result is that the lobbyists find other ways to get around them.”

Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689. Follow him at