Cal Poly Student’s Poster Presentation Earns First Place at MIT Symposium

A Cal Poly industrial technology major won the student poster competition for a presentation on insulated solar electric cooking at MIT’s sixth annual Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) Women in Clean Energy Symposium.

Madison Fleming, a Santa Barbara native who is also minoring in sustainable environments, competed against graduate student teams from Columbia, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkley and Yale. She was the only undergraduate student presenting in the competition held last fall.

Fleming is part of a team researching solar stoves for the global poor through Cal Poly’s appropriate technology courses. Small solar panels power a slow cooker and eliminate deadly emissions from open fires often used for indoor cooking, she said. Globally, 4 million people — mostly women and children — die each year from illnesses attributed to indoor cooking fumes from burning coal or biomass.

The research team’s solution is an inexpensive, low-power solar panel combined with an insulated cooking device would provide a cost-effective, efficient cooking method for communities lacking access to electricity.

“What distinguishes Maddi is her dedication and ownership of the project as well as the breadth of her vision including technology, business and sociology considerations,” said Pete Schwartz, a Cal Poly physics professor leading the appropriate technology curriculum. “Because she has a broad understanding of every aspect of the project, she connects with others and presents our work well, which is likely responsible for her win at MIT.”

Schwartz worked with Fleming and 10 other students to coauthor research on solar stoves — titled “Insulated Solar Electric Cooking — Tomorrow’s healthy affordable stoves?” — that appeared in the journal Development Engineering. Several members of the team were recipients of Cal Poly’s Frost Undergraduate Student Research Award.

The group worked with a school and the nonprofit organization Aid Africa to refine their prototype and use resources appropriate to cultural norms of the region. Fleming and three classmates spent a month in a community in Uganda learning about village life and introducing two cooking prototypes in 2016. The trip was made possible by the Warren J. Baker and Robert D. Koob Endowments.

“Hopefully, we will be returning this summer to implement upwards of 100 insulated solar electric cooking units,” Fleming said. “This is my last year at Cal Poly, but I look forward to continuing my ties with this project and seeing how future students and Professor Schwartz continue to develop this technology.”

The C3E initiative and symposium was started in 2010 by the 25-government Clean Energy Ministerial to increase the number of women in science fields and recognize that all members of society are essential to tackle clean energy challenges. The event unites students and professional women with other governments to build a network. For more information, visit

Cal Poly Students Place Among Nation’s Best at a Supply Chain Competition

Cal Poly Students at Supply Chain Competition An interdisciplinary team of Cal Poly students took eighth place in the North American round of the Global Student Challenge, an annual supply chain finance competition hosted by the Supply Chain Finance Community on March 9 in Los Angeles.

The team of four competed in a timed business simulation where they aimed to maximize profits for a hypothetical company while balancing 200 variables including production needs, customer financing, marketing, loan financing and shipment deliverables while avoiding risk of supplier defaults and managing currency exchange changes.

Team members included industrial technology and packaging seniors Karan Singh (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) and James MacMillan (Larkspur, Calif.); information systems senior Makenzie Lary (Thousand Oaks, Calif.); and marketing senior Michael Di Dio (San Ramon, Calif.). Cal Poly was the highest-placing undergraduate team out of 450 master’s-level and undergraduate teams in the North American competition. Industrial technology and packaging students Paige Topole (Mountain View, Calif.) and Atlanta Nguyen also helped Cal Poly’s team advance in previous rounds of the challenge.

“The competition really tested our effectiveness in communicating and decision making,” Lary said. “We had to pool all our existing knowledge that we learned at Cal Poly about finance, sales, operations and supply chain, and weigh the consequences of making certain decisions within the simulation.”

Cal Poly’s team assembled and qualified for the Global Student Challenge last fall after taking Professor Ahmed Deif’s Industrial Technology 410 course: Operations, Planning and Control, which included a Learn by Doing simulation exercise. The students placed among the top 10 percent of 150 teams in the Western United States regional competition held in February. The students advanced to the United States round, where the team placed among the top 16 teams.

For more information about the competition, visit

Cal Poly to Host Digital Fabrication Lab Grand Opening Dec. 2

Industrial Technology studentsCal Poly’s Industrial Technology and Packaging Area will host a grand opening celebration for its digital fabrication (D-FAB) lab on Friday, Dec. 2 from 1-3 p.m. in Building 21, room 135 on campus. Students, alumni and at the Cal Poly community are welcome to enjoy appetizers and refreshments while hearing about the industrial technology program’s shift toward digitally-driven manufacturing.

The event will celebrate recent upgrades in the lab that include new CNC mills and lathes, a water-jet cutting table, 3-D printers and a press brake. Thanks to the generosity of alumni and industry partners, along with the support of the Orfalea College of Business, the area was able to make key improvements to technology that students will see in the working world.  Area chair Eric Olsen says the newly-added equipment has already been embraced enthusiastically by students.

The grand opening also kicks off a partnership between the D-FAB lab and Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The labs will be open for Cal Poly startups and entrepreneurs to prototype products and build innovative solutions.

For more information, or to support the Orfalea College of Business’ D-Fab Lab Initiative, contact Area Chair Eric Olsen at

Cal Poly Teams Take Place Second in Flexible Packaging Design Competition

Two teams of Cal Poly students tied for second place in a national packaging challenge held by the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). Students competing in the competition submitted flexible, plastic packaging desigFlexible Packaging Competition Entry 1ns for products aimed at satisfying consumer demands for convenient and easy-to-use packaging.

Chris Childers, Ben Harris, Samantha Kin, Kellie Meyer and Huyen Nguyen comprised the first interdisciplinary team of Cal Poly students, designing a chicken breast strainer for the competition. Their product featured a vacuum package that allows for the drainage of excess chicken juice from the package without speaking bacteria. The package material itself was made of barrier polymers with an easy-to-use straining element, allowing the product to be used with either frozen or defrosted chicken. Aside from the flexible package itself, the students also developed an innovative flexographic printing solution that allowed the full label to be printed with only one pass through the printer.

Flexible Packaging Competition Entry 2The second interdisciplinary team of Cal Poly students, including Cole Cressman, Victoria Hanna, Tyler Harwood and Carrie Sauer, created a design called Precise Rice, a complete meal system that allows customers to prepare, consume and store a single serving of rice in one container. The package itself has a high heat deflection barrier and properties with low water absorption, which allow for the product to have extended storage and a long shelf life.

The students participated in the competition as a part of the IT 341 class taught by Professor Ajay Kathruia. Each team will review a $500 reward for their second place victory in the competition. For more information on the competition, visit the competition’s press release.

Industrial Technology Professor Explores the Gamification of Curriculum

In the spirit of Learn by Doing, industrial technology professor Ahmed Deif is conducting research on how the “gamification” of curriculum — incorporating interactive games into the learning process — affects students’ understanding and application of lean manufacturing concepts.

Dief says his interest in the research stemmed from industry trends towards gamification in lean consulting for professionals. He says that classrooms have fallen behind by sticking to traditional lecturing methods to explain core concepts.

“The classical way of using slides and presentations Cal Poly master's students work through a gamification experimentexplaining the concepts isn’t used anymore, even in industry,” Deif said. “When it comes to universities, that [approach] should be the same.”

In his research, which spans across graduate and undergraduate classes, Deif matches lean six sigma concepts to physical games. After a brief lecture, students work in teams to complete the game and then share their thoughts on a number on factors such as attention span, the game’s relevance, confidence in applying the concept, and perceived cognitive effort. Deif says he sees students apprehending detailed concepts during the games, even without an explanation in the lecture.

He first presented his lean gamification research proposal at the Institute of Industrial Engineers Lean Six Sigma Conference in Sept. 2015. After receiving support from an Orfalea College of Business career readiness research grant as well as funding from the Industrial Technology and Packaging area, he was able to implement the games in the 2015 fall quarter. Deif will be using the games throughout the remainder of the year, and hopes to have an accurate sample of student assessments to determine which games are the most effective.

Eventually, Deif hopes that the success found in gamification could be applied to other disciplines to improve student learning.

“I’m trying to jump into a new world with this idea. There are a lot of concepts out there without games or exercises to explain them. I want to understand from the already established games… and, in the next phase of the research, design new games.”