News Release

Teams in Engineering Service Program Cited in National Award for Community Service

Matteo Mah takes a test ride on a quadricycle adapted by a team of Jacobs School students for the United Cerebal Palsy toy library.  (l-r Stephanie Fan, Billy Ikosipentarhos, Prettam Sarma and Casey Jowers.
December 1, 2006--The Jacobs School's Teams in Engineering Service (TIES) program helped earn UCSD a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. 

The award recognizes colleges and universities for their outstanding efforts to meet the needs of the communities that surround them and to reach out to the broader global community. This is the honor roll’s inaugural year. UCSD was recognized for five exemplary service projects, including TIES, and four initiatives in hurricane relief.

TIES is an innovative service and academic program in which multi-disciplinary teams of students use their combined technical and creative skills to design, build and deploy projects that solve technology-based problems for San Diego non-profit organizations.

Launched in 2004, TIES students are now working on 10 projects for seven non-profit community partners.  More than 70 engineering students participate each quarter.

At a Dec. 1, 2006 poster session at UCSD, undergraduates in the TIES program presented the current crop of service-learning projects which include pediatric digital vision screening, smart assisted living technologies and IT assistance for free medical clinics in San Diego.

Pediatric Vision Screening

The pediatric vision screeners at UCSD’s Shiley Eye Center need a new camera with customized software to continue to serve kids from low-income families, and the TIES students are working to make this possible. Screeners take digital pictures of the eyes of young kids, most of whom are in the Head Start program. Special software immediately analyzes eye reflection in the photos in order to identify potential eye problems. Right now, the software only works with one digital camera, and this camera is getting old. The students are working on new software that can be used with new cameras. Grabbing a critical algorithm from the old software program and reusing it is one of the biggest remaining challenges, and the TIES team is looking for more student software engineering expertise to join them and help out.

The TIES students have already created a customized flash circuit to maximize red eye which is important for the screening process. “It’s great to be working for a purpose and to be making a difference,” said TIES student and electrical and computer engineering senior Alicia Courtney.

“These are not prepackaged tasks. You really have to think on your feet,” said Michael Chin, a TIES student and computer science and engineering senior.

Monitoring Patient Falls

Detecting falls is the goal of a TIES group working on smart assisted living technologies for St. Paul’s Senior Homes & Service. The UCSD students are building pendants that will use wireless signals to notify staff members of assisted living facilities when a resident falls. The project requires hardware design, expertise in wireless technologies, software engineering and data analysis. One of the big remaining challenges is developing and then troubleshooting ways to differentiate a fall from things like sitting down and arm swinging. “Lots of movements in daily life simulate falls, we have to design a system to tell the difference,” said Natalia Lo, an electrical and computer engineering major at the Jacobs School and one of the ten UCSD student members on the team.

Xavier Monraz, another Jacobs School undergraduate on the team, explained that creating an inexpensive, non-cost prohibitive system for use in assisted living facilities is a major goal.

Also at St. Paul’s Senior Homes & Service, another TIES group continues to refine, improve and extend the 24-hour log system students have created for the nursing staff.

IT for Free Medical Clinics

A TIES team is building a digital record keeping system for free medical clinics in San Diego. Together with medical students and doctors, the Jacobs undergraduates are working to convert a cumbersome paper-based record system into a web-based application with a patient-centered design. With the existing system, the paperwork is a bottleneck that can limit the number of patients the clinic can serve in a day. The switch to digital records is expected to make it easier and faster for volunteers to track inventory and generate the statistical reports necessary for grant applications.

Other TIES project presented at the Fall 2006 poster session at UCSD

  • Two solar-powered projects at the Lakeside’s River Park Conservancy are being developed by TIES groups. There is an informational kiosk and a low-cost water quality sensor system that will allow the conservancy to monitor the productivity changes occurring along their reconstructed piece of the San Diego River.
  • Working with United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego, TIES students are modifying popular children’s’ toys so they can be safely enjoyed by children with special needs.
  • In Fall 2006, the engineering education outreach group created a new set of educational programs that encourage kids to learn about wind, solar, human and electromagnetic energy. The TIES team shared their educational materials and excitement for engineering with students from UCSD’s Preuss School.
  • The myTIES group is literally tying TIES together by overhauling the existing internal website and creating a functional and efficient system for keeping all TIES projects organized. The group will be working with the National Engineering Projects in Community Service organization to develop modular software that can be used at various engineering service-learning sites.

More than 500 colleges applied for the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognition. Final selections were made by the Corporation for National and Community Service, an independent federal agency geared to fostering volunteerism and service in America.

“Higher education is a powerful engine of civic engagement and is central to achieving the President’s vision of active citizens and connected communities,” said Stephen Goldsmith, chairman of the sponsoring corporation.

In addition to emphasizing the importance of service to the community, the honor roll was initiated to increase public awareness of the impact that college students have in service.

 Lake  nurse

Students involved with the Teams in Engineering Serivce program are developing a water quality testing system to help the Lakeside River Park Conservency in their efforts to restore the biological integrity of the San Diego River.

Lindsay Ramsey, nurse at St. Paul's Senior Homes & Services, being trained to operate an electronic version of the 24-hour patient log by Ellen Noh, leader of the user centered design subteam. The digital nursing log developed by Jacobs School students has replaced St. Paul's old hand-written log for tracking patient information.

Other UCSD exemplary service projects cited in the award include:

  • Alternative Spring Breaks – UCSD organizations and colleges sponsored service trips to Costa Rica, Peru, Tanzania, Russia and the Gulf Region where students aided where needed. For example, in Russia, students mentored disadvantaged elementary students and made improvements to school facilities.
  • Preuss School/Gompers Charter School (GMCS) Involvement Program – At these charter schools for underrepresented children, UCSD students tutor in all subjects and provide lunchtime activities that reinforce a college-going culture. They intern in counseling and nursing offices and directly interact with parents.
  • Public Service Minor – This minor is open to all UCSD students and encourages understanding of the history and practices of public service, the development of civic skills, and the practical application through participation in specific internships in public service through the campus Academic Internship Program.
  • American Pie: What’s Under the Crust? – In these quarterly events, American and international students participate in community visits, service projects and dinner discussions on specific topics, such as religion or race, to gain a better understanding of American culture through hands-on helping and open talks.

UCSD’s hurricane relief projects include:

  • Individual Student Efforts – Students participated in an innovative variety of ways: stitching commemorative hats and scarves to sell at a Muir holiday fair; a Sixth College festival featuring a “pie in the face” fundraiser; fundraising in the dining halls, and a fundraiser at the Hard Rock Café in downtown La Jolla.
  • Warren College Television (WCTV) Hurricane Help-a-thon – In a ten-hour telethon over the college closed circuit television that reaches 7,000 students, students solicited donations, including art work, baked goods, and parking permits on which students bid. Students also provided entertainment during the telethon.
  • Alternative Break for Katrina Relief – The student group CalPIRG organized two trips to New Orleans where students volunteered with the non-profit, Common Ground. They assisted at a medical center and a women’s center, gutted homes, did grounds’ work, served as kitchen crew, and took part in rallies.
  • UCSD Cares: Hurricane Katrina Relief – Help Us Help Our Neighbors – In this campus wide effort, the Alumni Association, Associated Students, Student Organizations & Leadership Opportunities (SOLO), the A.S. Volunteer Connection and UCSD Bookstore collected monetary and material donations. Backpacks, food, clothing, household items were donated to the Red Cross.

In addition to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll is sponsored by the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. It is presented in cooperation with Campus Compact, a national coalition of nearly 1,000 college and university presidents.

Donate to the Jacobs School of Engineering's TIES program.

Media Contacts

Denine Hagen
Jacobs School of Engineering

Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering