First-ever EPICS Expo Showcases Student Projects for the Community

In February, dozens of students from San Jose State University and Santa Clara University showcased their projects at the first-ever Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) Expo.

Dr. Jinny Rhee and Dr. Julia Thompson at the Expo
Dr. Julia Thompson and Dr. Jinny Rhee accept a large check from IEEE on behalf of EPICS

The EPICS program, which was introduced at SJSU in 2015, focuses on service learning, requiring students to collaboratively apply what they learned in the classroom to authentic, real-world engineering challenges. Past projects include “Hygiene for the Homeless”, a portable shower and laundry unit for those in need; “Gratis”, an app that addresses students’ food insecurities; an automated inductive wireless electric vehicle charger; and an underwater drone to help reduce depletion of endangered fish species.

On the night of the Expo, the Student Union Ballroom was full of 2018-2019 prototypes and poster presentations of ideas that directly address issues facing the local community. One team of students presented their educational aquaponics display, built with the visitors of the Tech Museum in mind. The Smart Locker Team unveiled their safe storage unit prototype, intended for the clients of the Gilroy Compassion Center. Project Pisces presented their idea for “Underwater Drone 3.0”, an improvement on the drone from the cohort before them. Another student team introduced their closed-loop agricultural system for local gardens, connecting irrigation and biogas into one system.

“EPICS gets at the root of many issues facing our community,” says Dr. Julia Thompson, the program’s director. “It’s great to see that we’re making an impact and to know that we are a part of of a larger trend to focus on socially responsible engineering in Silicon Valley.”

Most projects are done in collaboration with a community partner, most notably the Gilroy Compassion Center, South Bay Clean Creek Coalition, California Native Garden Foundation, and the City of San Jose. The Expo itself was made possible thanks to IEEE, whom also gave an additional $10,000 to three of the program’s ongoing projects.

Learn more about EPICS and keep up with current projects here. Have ideas for a new project? Submit your idea here. All engineering students are encouraged to enroll. Mechanical and computer engineering students can take it as a senior capstone class (ENGR 195A/B) and all other majors can take it as a one-unit elective (ENGR 160SL).