Big Ideas in Motion

The first three projects for the College of Engineering & Computer Science’s Titans of Transformation: Big Ideas initiative are underway, delivering enhanced research and service-learning opportunities for our students. Led by faculty champions committed to a deeper engagement with our communities, these project teams have high aspirations to address fundamental societal challenges that affect the health, stability, and quality of life of people in our communities through transformative collaboration and innovation.

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The Big Ideas initiative is designed to drive innovation and spark next-level collaborations that will generate new knowledge, powerful solutions, and positive change. Learn more about the college’s Big Ideas initiative here.

Big Idea: Engineering Wildfire Mitigation

Ankita Mohapatra, assistant professor of computer engineering at Cal State Fullerton’s College of Engineering & Computer Science, is lead researcher for the Engineering Wildfire Mitigation Initiative, which will employ a smart wireless solar-powered sensor hub. The sensors are designed to continuously monitor for changes in temperature, humidity, particles in the air, and carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide levels in order to detect fires before they flare up. Once a young fire is detected, or an area is identified as being high-risk, fire responders can get to the area quickly, set up posts close by so they’re ready to act at the first sign of trouble, or take preemptive measures such as spraying fire deterrents.

Bearing witness to these fires year after year, Mohapatra, her faculty collaborators – computer engineering faculty members John Faller and Rakeshkumar Mahto; Jidong Huang, professor of electrical engineering; and Dan Curtis, associate professor of analytical chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics – and eight undergraduate students knew an ultra-sensitive early detection system could make a big difference. The team is currently collaborating with two fire chiefs – Chief Tim Shackelford of Chino Hills and Chief Adam Loeser of Brea and Fullerton – as well as Chino Hills City Council Member Cynthia Moran on the design and potential applications of the sensor hub.

You can learn more about Mohapatra’s smart wireless solar-powered sensor hub “Big Idea” here. If you’re interested in supporting the Engineering Wildfire Mitigation Initiative, your contributions will seed potential innovations in wildfire engineering mitigation efforts, leading to increased student engagement and stronger community-connected solutions.

Big Idea: Digital Homelessness Initiative

Approximately 17 out of every 10,000 people in the U.S. experience homelessness, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development Point-in-Time Count in 2019. That same survey showed that California accounts for a disproportionate 27 percent of the nation’s homeless population. A recent study also showed that 1 in 10 of California State University’s own students have experienced homelessness.

Permanent supportive housing (PSH) – long-term, community-based housing targeted to individuals and families with a qualified disability who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness – can help. PSH makes it easier for people to access supportive services such as connections to community-based healthcare, treatment, and employment services.

Anand Panangadan, assistant professor of computer science at Cal State Fullerton’s College of Engineering & Computer Science, and his team believe technology can help make PSH more effective by making it easier for residents to access services and reduce the cost of providing those services. Within ECS, Panangadan is collaborating with Kiran George, professor of computer engineering, on this Big Idea initiative. Outside ECS, he has begun working with Tabashir Nobari, assistant professor of public health; Yuko Okado, assistant professor of psychology; Debra Stout, Executive Director of the Fullerton Collaborative and professor in the College of Health & Human Development; and Benjamin Henwood, associate professor of social work at USC. Panangadan and his team have already established relationships with supportive housing providers, like Mercy House, some of which also provide their own in-house healthcare services.

You can read more about Panangadan’s “Big Idea” here. Support for the Digital Homelessness Initiative would have a direct impact on positioning Cal State Fullerton as a leader in the push to reduce and resolve homelessness – one of our society’s greatest challenges.

Big Idea: Human-Centered Design Initiative

Engineers are problem solvers by definition; however, the societal context and nuances of their solutions often lack meaningful user input and are therefore at risk of not reaching their full potential. That’s why Jin Woo Lee, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Cal State Fullerton’s College of Engineering & Computer Science, is passionate about human-centered design – and why he wants to engage students and the community to develop and deliver needs-based solutions.

Lee’s Human-Centered Design Initiative team has the opportunity to partner with local companies and philanthropists to build capacity for direct-service organizations by connecting their needs to talented student groups at Cal State Fullerton who will deliver human-centered design solutions.

Lee and his collaborators from diverse fields are exploring an array of areas where human-centered design could have a positive local impact. They plan to scale up to 10 community projects per year, incrementally employing more than 100 students. Find out more about Lee’s “Big Idea” here, and consider an investment in the Human-Centered Design Initiative that could elevate Cal State Fullerton’s connection with the community, helping us apply the latest innovative curriculum to real-world projects in our region.

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