Cal Poly honored faculty and staff who received a record $32 million in grants and whose research resulted in five patents for the university in the 2015-16 academic year.
The patented inventions include an automotive air-conditioning system, an in-wall air-filtration system, CubeSats (or small satellites that launch as secondary payloads), a computer-implemented process to allow the visually impaired to transform touch into an audio response, and an environmentally benign packing design.
“I just want to say how proud I am of the work that you are all doing,” Dean Wendt, dean of research in the Office of Research and Economic Development, told about 80 faculty and staff members gathered at the annual reception held in the fall. “We are celebrating an unprecedented year of externally funded research activity at the university.”
Grant funding for research projects was up 25 percent over last year’s $26 million, and “ranks as the highest amount of external funding on record at Cal Poly,” Wendt said.
“Let me put that number in context for you: The annual base budget for the College of Science and Mathematics is around $37 million, and it includes all the salaries and wages and operating budgets for the college,” he said. “The $32 million is a significant contribution you are making to our institution and to the education of our students.”
There are other benefits to campus research, Wendt said. The grants contributed to more than $250,000 in tuition, fees and scholarships for students; funded more than $650,000 in lab equipment in the university’s six colleges; supported the wages of 58 Cal Poly Corporation employees; and paid $1.8 million in wages to more than 800 student researchers.
President Jeffrey D. Armstrong praised the faculty, who in addition to their teaching duties also apply for and oversee the research, and the staff of the Sponsored Programs and Grants Development offices who administer the more than 500 grants.
“You are impacting lives. You are helping students succeed,” he told the group. “And your careers are just blossoming and growing. It’s very, very exciting.”
Five university centers that each received more than $1 million and those who manage them were singled out: Stuart Styles and Charles Burt of the Irrigation Training and Research Center; John Keller and Chance Hoellworth of the Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME); Sam Blakeslee and Christine Robertson of the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy; Wendt of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences; and Suzanne Phelan of the Center for Solutions Through Research in Diet and Exercise (STRIDE).
In addition, four individuals who secured a combined $50 million in grant funding over their Cal Poly careers were honored. Styles and Burt, director and chairman of the board respectively for Cal Poly’s Irrigation Training and Research Center, each has procured more than $20 million in external funding. Blakeslee, IATPP director, and Trevor Cardinal, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Regenerative Medicine Program, each has procured $5 million in grant funding.
The patent holders from the 2015-16 academic year are:
— Jay Singh and former student Evan Cernokus, patent for “System, Method and Apparatus for Making and Using Flex Column Void-Based Packing Materials.” Their system for forming space-consuming, shock-absorbing packing materials uses a three-sided flex-column to eliminate the need for non-recyclable polystyrene packing peanuts and better protect shipped items saving time and money in a manner that is also easier on the environment.
— Patrick Lemieux, patent for “Air-Cycle Environmental Control Systems and Methods for Automotive Applications.” This air-cycle air-conditioning invention uses an automotive turbocharger as the system core to maximize cooling while minimizing weight and space, as well as impacts on engine performance.
— Jordi Puig-Suari and Austin Williams of aerospace engineering, patent for “CubeSat Systems, Method and Apparatus.” These nano-satellites piggyback on the launches of larger satellites. The basic CubeSat unit is a box about 4 inches square; larger CubeSats are multiples of that unit.
— Dennis Fantin and Art MacCarley, patent for “Transforming a Tactually Selected User Input into an Audio Output.” Fantin, blind since age 12, and MacCarley developed a computer-implemented process to assist the visually impaired, transforming the touch of a selected Braille key into an analog audio signal output as human speech with an electro-acoustic transducer.
— Carmen Trudell and student Natacha Schnider, patent for “System and Method for Air Filtration Via Cyclone Separators Enclosed Within Exterior Walls.” The invention uses cyclone separators mounted within walls to purify the air in buildings.
Wendt recognized the individuals who had the highest grant funding totals in their colleges:
— Orfalea College of Business: Stephen Hamilton, economics.
— College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences: Stuart Styles, bioresource and agricultural engineering.
— College of Architecture and Environmental Design: Cornelius Nuworsoo, city and regional planning.
— College of Engineering: Trevor Cardinal.
— College of Liberal Arts: Patrick Lin, philosophy.
— College of Science and Mathematics: Stan Yoshinobu, mathematics.
Cal Poly Teams Take First and Second at Data Hackathon
Cal Poly teams finished first in the best insight category and second in the best use of external data category at the undergraduate statistics hackathon called DataFest. Nearly 20 teams from five colleges, including UCLA and USC, participated in the competition, held April 29-May 1 at UCLA.
The competition gives students the chance to do hands-on analysis of real-world big data. Online ticket seller Ticketmaster provided millions of data points, and students had just under 48 hours to see what they could find.
“DataFest is a great opportunity for students to work with a set of data that’s much larger than what we can usually offer them in a classroom setting,” said Hunter Glanz, a statistics professor and the teams’ faculty advisor.
The team that won for best insight built a filter to predict how successful an event will be at a venue where it’s never been held. The other team calculated the average price of a ticket by county and compared that to economic census data to see whether ticket prices were reasonable for that region.
Working directly with data from a large business gave the students a unique experience. “We were able to take an actual company’s data and develop our own insight, visualization and inferences at a much bigger scale than we can in class,” said Shreyas Doshi, a business administration major who worked on the external data team.
Students also got a taste of how to use data in a business setting. “In the real world, you have to learn how statistics affects marketing decisions. DataFest showed us how to take that next step that is usually only learned in an internship or job,” Doshi said.
Throughout the weekend, students had time to network with professionals from Ticketmaster, who attended the competition and judged the entries.