Oct. 2 Symposium Will Highlight Dozens of Summer Undergraduate Research Projects

Shimon Chait's project for the Summer Undergraduate Research Program entailed working with experts at the United Launch Alliance.
Industrial engineering major Vanessa Veto’s SURP project sought to increase playing time for under-used athletes in youth sports using goal programming.

Nearly 40 student research projects — covering diverse topics that include the use of machine learning in criminal investigations, wine supply chains, and hopping robots — will be on display during the virtual Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) Symposium, Oct. 2.

The 8-week SURP program pairs newer undergraduate students and faculty mentors with relevant research projects, several of which are sponsored by major industry representatives. Students receive a $3,000 stipend for their work.

This summer, 76 students worked on 37 projects, representing ten different engineering department and programs.

Despite a pandemic that forced this year’s SURP to be entirely virtual, the program experienced its biggest year to date, according to Associate Dean for Innovation Infrastructure Robert Crockett.

“We had to make this year’s SURP a virtual program on very short notice, and the ability to adapt is a testament to the resiliency of our students and their faculty mentors,” Crockett said. “The students didn’t just adapt to a virtual program – they thrived with it.”

During the symposium, which will take place between 4-6:30 p.m., 16 judges will review the projects, which will be broken into four parallel Zoom sessions hosted by CENG staff. Visit the SURP page HERE for more information and to view projects.

Each project team created posters, abstracts, team bios, videos and sponsor acknowledgements, which will be displayed.

Two “notable posters” will be identified for each of the four parallel live sessions. (Each session will feature eight projects, scheduled sequentially in 15-minute blocks.)

The sessions will also be recorded.

The SURP program provides an opportunity for younger students – who often have difficulty gaining competitive internships – to acquire experience related to their majors.  During the program, students work closely with faculty and industry professionals on projects that represent the types of challenges students will one day face in the workforce, Crockett said, better preparing them for their careers.

One SURP project worked with the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach to improve recognition of sharks in footage captured by drones.

“One of the many beneficial aspects of this program is that is allows students to explore topics that don’t have a defined answer,” Crockett said. “So SURP allows students to deepen their skills in fearlessly facing open-ended problems.”

Of the 37 projects in this year’s SURP, nearly half were sponsored. Industry sponsors included Boeing; Evidation Health; General Atomics; HM Holloway; Lockheed Martin Skunk Works; Northrop Grumman; Raytheon; the Sprague Family Foundation and United Launch Alliance (ULA). Nic and Sarah Johnson, two Cal Poly alums, also sponsored a project.

This year’s SURP included a range of topics, including a Northrop Grumman project seeking to develop a deep space communication system for small spacecraft; a General Atomics project to create a high speed autonomous vehicle and an intelligent voice assistant project sponsored by the Sprague Foundation. 

The Cal Poly College of Engineering understands there has been an enormous amount of turmoil and transition due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue offering support to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we also continue providing critical updates as well as college highlights. Ours is a college full of creative and bright engineers and staff. For more information on COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For more information on how Cal Poly is responding to COVID-19, visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website Coronavirus website.

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