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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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