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Four Cal Poly Engineering Students Honored in Sacramento

Feb 2, 2016

Twenty-one Cal Poly students, including four engineering majors, were recognized for their awards and other accomplishments by state lawmakers on the floors of the Assembly and Senate in Sacramento on Monday, Feb. 1.

“These fine students are indicative of our Learn by Doing philosophy and reflect what their peers are also accomplishing at Cal Poly,” said university President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, who accompanied the students to both legislative chambers. “We want to honor these students for their success in the classroom and for their extracurricular activities that have been honored regionally and nationally."

The group was introduced to the Senate by Majority Leader Bill Monning, D-Carmel, and to the Assembly by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo. Both men represent San Luis Obispo County. Achadjian is a Cal Poly graduate.  In addition, the students met with the Office of the Governor Jerry Brown, Office of the Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and representatives from their respective Senate and Assembly districts.

As an individual or team member, each of the honorees has received a national industry award or been significantly involved in such high-profile events as the Tournament of Roses Parade, with its TV audience of 100 million, and the team that raised $600,000 for a net zero solar home that was judged third best in the nation.

The Cal Poly Engineering honorees:

Kevin Carstens is pursuing master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering,with a concentration in transportation engineering, in the College of Engineering, and business administration in the Orfalea College of Business. His hometown is Rocklin, Calif. He was president of Cal Poly ITE, a student chapter of the Institute of Transportation Engineers that was named the institute’s 2015 international chapter of the year. Carstens was also part of the foursome that won the title and $2,000 in the ITE Collegiate Traffic Bowl Grand Championships, which was open to teams from throughout Canada and the U.S. In internships with Reinard Brandley Airport Consulting,San Luis Obispo County’s Public Works Department, and Fehr & Peers, his duties ranged from drafting and editing, to guiding lost tourists through the remote Carrizo Plain. Carstens also develops transit analysis apps for Bishop Peak Technology, and assists Cal Poly professors with their research. His career goal is to work for a transportation engineering firm.

Joyce Lin is majoring in civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering. Her hometown is Kirkland, Wash. She was a member of Cal Poly’s Concrete Canoe team that won the Innovation Award and earned second place overall with their 2015 entry, Jumanji, at the National Concrete Canoe Competition, held in Clemson, S.C., last June. It was the 10th consecutive year that Cal Poly placed in the top five at the annual competition referred to as the “America’s Cup of Civil Engineering.” Students gain hands-on, practical experience in project management and working with concrete mix designs in the competition. This was Cal Poly’s 16th trip to the nationals, including back-to-back national titles from 2010 to 2012. Lin is project manager for the 2015-16 team, oversing fundraising, finances, scheduling and material procurement. She also organizes Open Shed Fridays and Casting Days to increase student interest on campus.

Morgan Montalvo is a mechanical engineering major in the College of Engineering. Her hometown is Woodland Hills, Calif. She was Cal Poly Rose Float construction chair for the award-winning 2016 float, “Sweet Shenanigans.” Montalvo, who drove the 55-foot vehicle, had an unusual perspective of the parade with its 700,000 spectators and a TV audience estimated at 100 million. For the fifth consecutive year, the float earned the California Grown designation from the California Cut Flower Commission, which recognizes an entry decorated with at least 85 percent of cut flowers and plant materials from the Golden State. “I think it is important to us to be California Grown, because we are a California float at heart,” she said. “Cal Poly universities, especially in this parade, help to represent the state.” This was the second straight year the entry received the Lathrop K. Leishman Trophy for the most beautiful non-commercial entry. Working on the float team seemed a natural evolution for Montalvo, who has been designing and building robots since the sixth grade. She received a four-year, $70,000 family scholarship — her mother is an engineer — from the SME Education Foundation. “She was a force to be reckoned with from day one,” one teacher wrote in recommending her for the scholarship. “In a class that was filled with mostly boys, Morgan was never intimidated by the boys.”

Ryan Smith is a graduate student studying structural engineering in the College of Engineering. He earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Cal Poly in 2015. His hometown is Carlsbad, Calif. He was president of the Cal Poly Society of Civil Engineers when it received the 2015 American Society of Civil Engineers’ Robert Ridgway Award, which recognizes the most outstanding chapter of 323 student groups in 16 countries. Cal Poly’s group was selected after a rigorous review based on an annual report prepared by student officers. “This distinction is the civil engineering equivalent of the Academy Award,” said college Dean Debra Larson. “It only goes to the best of the best, and it reflects our Cal Poly chapter’s extraordinary efforts, achievements and leadership.” Among the chapter's competitive teams, the Cal Poly Steel Bridge team placed second in the National Student Steel Bridge Competition, and the chapter’s concrete canoe team finished second in the Concrete Canoe National Competition. “These achievements go to the roots of Learn by Doing,” said Smith, who served 14 months as president. “We have such a large group — and long history — of devoted student members who invest their time, interest and energies on extracurricular activities like SCE.” He has also served as SCE chapter treasurer and social director.

For a complete listing of honorees, visit

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Pictured, left to right, Kevin Carstens, Joyce Lin, Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, Morgan Montalvo and Ryan Smith. 

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Cal Poly ‘Plugs and Plays’ to Win Team Tech Competition and Multiple Awards at National Conference

Jan 22, 2016

Cal Poly Society of Women Engineers (SWE) celebrated another banner year, with three first-place awards and special recognition of two Cal Poly chapter alumnae at the national society’s conference, held Oct. 22-24, in Nashville, Tenn.

For the fifth year in a row, the Cal Poly chapter received the Outstanding Collegiate Section Gold Award, the highest possible collegiate recognition. It was also a recipient of the Boeing Multicultural Award for “best multicultural program to increase and retain a diverse membership.”

The outstanding work of two chapter alumnae was also honored. A string of company firsts in aircraft systems testing and a passion for promoting women in engineering earned Kate Van Dellen (B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 2008) of Arlington, Texas, the Distinguished New Engineer Award. Leah Meeks (B.S., Bioresources and Agricultural Engineering, 2008) of Boise, Idaho, was voted Outstanding Collegiate Member. Meeks is now active in the SWE section at Utah State University, where she is a civil engineering doctoral candidate.

To top off an evening of awards, Cal Poly SWE also captured the event’s highest honor: first place and $5,000 for its winning entry in the Team Tech Competition, sponsored by Boeing. The year-long, multidisciplinary, industry-sponsored project involved almost 30 Cal Poly students spanning eight disciplines and was led by co-directors Nicole Slagle and Wyatt Ayling, both mechanical engineering seniors.

It is the eighth time in 10 years that Cal Poly has won the Team Tech Competition, including first-place ties between two Cal Poly teams in 2009 and again in 2011.

“We attribute this year’s win to the sheer magnitude of our project,” said Ayling, noting that the competitors are judged most on the engineering process as a whole and the teamwork involved.

“The goal was to design, prototype and test a standardized payload to demonstrate the plug-and-play civilian capability of the Desert Hawk III, an unmanned aerial vehicle made by Lockheed Martin, our industry sponsor,” said Ayling. 

Though the technical requirements were spelled out by the company, the nature of the payload itself was up to the team to develop.

“After initial research into the potential commercial markets, we chose to design an application to assist first responders in natural disasters — such as earthquakes, fires and floods — by equipping the unmanned aircraft with monitoring capabilities to help those on the ground locate lost persons and assess changing ground conditions,” said Ayling.

In addition to Ayling and Slagle, team members included aerospace engineering majors Jayse Kulesa (Riverside, Calif.), Sarah Kaye (Lake Stevens, Wash.), and Yesenia Guzman (Compton, Calif.); biomedical engineering major Ryan Eakins (Kirkland, Wash.); computer science majors Amy Tsai (Cupertino, Calif.), Annamarie Roger (Larkspur, Calif.), and Ian Washburne (Lake Oswego, Ore.); electrical engineering majors Cecilia Yuen (Milpitas, Calif.), Sara Kipps (Fremont, Calif.), Trefor Szabo (Oakland, Calif.), and Tyler Scholz (Vacaville, Calif.); environmental engineering major Tiffany Seto (Temple City, Calif.); materials engineering major Sarah Wattenberg (Trabuco, Calif.); mechanical engineering majors Alexa Coburn (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Gabby Merkin (Reseda, Calif.), Gaby Dinata (Clovis, Calif.), Jennifer Ford (Valley Village, Calif.), Lindsay Meany (Bothell, Wash.), Lindsey Chase (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Lydia Hedge (Auburn, Wash.), Lyndall Colrain (Redwood City, Calif.) Michela Upson (Mission Viejo, Calif.), and Rick Doyle (Evanston, Ill.); and software engineering majors Nancy Truong (San Jose, Calif.) and Paula Ledgerwood (San Diego, Calif.). Faculty advisor was Helene Finger, director of Cal Poly’s Women in Engineering Program.

“Team Tech is such a valuable opportunity because it mirrors the industry experience you walk into after you graduate,” said Ayling. “Your sponsors are almost customers, and you have to create a product that fits their vision while using your original ideas. It allows first- and second-year students to gain experience working on a team and get a jump on the technical aspect of their degree, and it gives upperclassmen the opportunity to become mentors to younger students and learn valuable skills to apply in their internships and jobs.”


Pictured: Left to right, front row: Nicole Slagle, Jennifer Ford, Alexa Coburn and Sara Kipps. Back row: Wyatt Ayling and Helene Finger (faculty advisor) at the Team Tech design review held at Lockheed Martin’s facilities in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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Cal Poly Evaporation Study Demonstrates Water Savings

Jan 22, 2016

A study conducted at the Cal Poly National Pool Industry Research Center (NPIRC) found that considerable water savings could be realized if outdoor swimming pools were covered by market-available covers.

Use of pool covers could reduce 95 percent of evaporation from California pools, saving more than 55,000 acre-feet of water per year — enough to supply a city of approximately 500,000, said principal investigator Misgana Muleta, an associate professor in Cal Poly’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Department.

The study was sponsored by the National Plasterers Council (NPC), the California Pool and Spa Association, the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals, and the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association. 

“Given the severity of drought in California, this potential water saving is substantial,” said Alan Smith, chair of NPC’s Research Committee. 

The study involved taking daily water-level measurements and weekly water-chemistry readings for eight pools at the NPIRC for 90 days, starting in July. Climate data included air temperature, wind speed and rainfall collected at a Cal Poly weather station. 

Several companies and associations donated funds, supplies and equipment needed to conduct the 90-day protocol.  

The study can be downloaded at along with a full description of the protocol, objectives, timeline, and donors.

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Photo: Civil Engineering Professor Misgana Muleta (right) and graduate student research assistant Ernesto Jimenez.


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Chi Epsilon CE/ENVE Honor Society Participates in Pacific District Conference

Nov 11, 2015

The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Chi Epsilon Civil and Environmental Engineering Honor Society participated in the Pacific District Conference held at San Jose State University November 6-8, 2015. Five Cal Poly students, including Carley Burford, Jason Hsia, Carley Thomas, Elizabeth Coffey and Jonathon Centofranchi participated, and through their efforts earned third place (out of 14 universities) in the Pacific District Cup Competition! Dr. Robert Bertini (Cal Poly Chi Epsilon Chapter President in 1987) accompanied the team, which is advised by Dr. Charles Chadwell. Congratulations to the team for a job well done! 



Cal Poly at U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, Oct. 8-18

Nov 5, 2015

Cal Poly is participating in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, Oct. 8-18, at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif.  Cal Poly’s team, Solar Cal Poly, is among 14 teams from universities across the country and around the world who have been engaged in a nearly two-year process of building a solar-powered house that is affordable, innovative and highly energy efficient.

Solar Cal Poly is an interdisciplinary mix of architecture, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, construction management, landscape architecture, graphic communications, marketing and business students. As part of the Solar Decathlon, the team will compete in 10 different contests – ranging from architecture and engineering to home appliance performance – while gaining valuable hands-on experience. 

Civil engineering major Erik Pinuelas is the student construction manager for the project. "Designing a home of the future is inspirational," he said . "My role hasn't been so much the design itself as assisting to integrate and implement the design input. There were at least 50 very different models and concepts to choose from."

Other Cal Poly Engineering participants include electrical engineering majors Casey Smith and Jenna Denhaan and electrical engineering faculty advisor Dale Dolan; computer science majors Dante Tim Ambrose and Andrew Elliott and computer science faculty advisor John Clements; and mechanical engineering faculty advisor Kim Shollenberger.

The Solar Decathlon educates students and the public about the money-saving opportunities and environmental benefits presented by clean-energy products and design solutions; demonstrates to the public the comfort and affordability of homes that combine energy-efficient construction and appliances with renewable energy systems available today; and provides participating students with unique training that prepares them to enter our nation's clean-energy workforce.

 The current Solar Decathlon 2015 team roster is:

  • California Polytechnic State University
  • California State University, Sacramento
  • Clemson University
  • Crowder College and Drury University
  • Missouri University of Science and Technology
  • New York City College of Technology
  • State University of New York at Alfred College of Technology and Alfred University
  • Stevens Institute of Technology
  • The University of Texas at Austin and Technische Universitaet Muenchen
  • University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine; Saddleback College; Chapman University; and Irvine Valley College
  • West Virginia University and University of Roma Tor Vergata
  • Western New England University, Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá, and Universidad Tecnológica Centroamericana


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