EPICS Elite Pitch Competition expands impact of student projects

May 16, 2019

The Engineering Projects in Community Service program, better known as EPICS, in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University provides students the knowledge, funding and opportunity to work on real projects with actual clients who are facing social or environmental problems. Through these projects, students gain real-world experience and acquire skills that are highly valued when they enter the job market.

This year, the Fulton Schools held the first ever EPICS Elite Pitch Competition with a total of eight teams selected to compete out of the more than 40 EPICS projects currently in progress. Each team developed a five-minute pitch detailing their solution, its implementation, and their plans to grow and scale their ideas. Three students test water quality Water in Peru team members (from left to right) Samantha Stone, Daniel Hoop and Brett Goldsmith examine water quality. This EPICS team, which is working to solve the global problem of water purification monitoring, earned first place and $1,500 at the first EPICS Elite Pitch Competition. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

“The EPICS Elite Pitch Competition was created to allow student teams an opportunity to obtain additional funding to implement their solutions, which will create value and provide a positive impact on the communities they are working with,” says Jared Schoepf, EPICS director of operations and lecturer.

The first-place team, Water in Peru, was awarded $1,500; the second-place team, Shonto Pump Track, was awarded $1,000; and the third-place team, Bridge2Africa, received $500.

Water in Peru

The Water in Peru team is working to solve the global problem of monitoring chlorine concentrations for disinfecting water. They are developing a continuous and autonomous chlorine disinfection system alongside 33 Buckets. The Water in Peru team’s system utilizes chlorine tablets to remove E. coli bacteria from reservoirs that provide drinking water to communities in Peru.

“Chlorine disinfection requires a consistent, precise dose to be effective against bacterial contamination over time,” says Daniel Hoop, an environmental engineering major and the Water in Peru team lead. “The primary goal of our system is to make the dosing of chlorine in drinking water systems more user-friendly.”

In order to improve usability, the team designed and prototyped a tablet chlorination system that contains an adjustable ball valve to change chlorine exposure to water flowing into a community’s reservoir.

The second aspect of the system is automatic monitoring of residual chlorine levels.

“Residual chlorine is the parameter set by the World Health Organization to confirm that drinking water is safe to consume after disinfection,” explains Hoop. “Currently, many communities lack the resources and training to properly test for residual chlorine. As a result, we are working on a sensor that continuously and automatically tests for the residual chlorine level in water without the need for reagents.”

The sensor is completely solar powered and compact; it can fit in a lunch-box-sized encasing. The goal of the sensor is to supplement manual water quality testing with remote monitoring through data collection. To confirm the effectiveness of the system, the team created a manual testing training that they will also provide to community members. 

Hoop says that he worked with 33 Buckets because of the alignment of the project’s mission and the organization’s origins as a former EPICS project.

“The EPICS program provides a platform for undergraduates to work through the engineering design process with a community partner on an actual solution for a client,” says Hoop. “The program provides support in the form of advisers, prototyping labs and funding opportunities to allow for projects to manifest into real-world solutions.” 

three people posing next to lakefront

Students (from left to right) Brett Goldsmith, Samantha Stone and Daniel Hoop show a prototype of their autonomous chlorine disinfection system created as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service program. The Water in Peru team earned first place in the EPICS Elite Pitch Competition. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU

Water in Peru team members

• Daniel Hoop, environmental engineering

• Samantha Stone, environmental engineering

• Zachary Kobza, civil engineering

• Brett Goldsmith, engineering (electrical systems)

• Mauro Robles, biomedical engineering

• Dev Patel, chemical engineering

group of people sitting around a desk

Students (from left to right) Aly Carlson, Alexander Owen, Emma Pedersen, Christian Messner, Danielle Seedon and Jocelyn Zaman show off a model of a mountain biking pump track they designed for the Navajo Nation community of Shonto as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service program. The Shonto Pump Track team earned second place at the EPICS Elite Pitch Competition. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU

Shonto Pump Track

The Navajo Nation is currently facing a public health crisis and community leaders want to incorporate some form of physical exercise that will promote a healthy lifestyle in the community.

The Shonto Pump Track team is partnering with the community of Shonto on the Navajo Nation to use mountain biking as a way to provide economic development and promote public health by creating mountain bike pump tracks.

Pump tracks are looped trails with small hills riders maneuver to gain momentum and propel themselves forward without pedaling. This technique is called “pumping.”

“We have built a pump track at the local elementary school and are in the process of building a larger one at the community center,” says Aly Carlson, a chemical engineering major. “These pump tracks give the students a place to learn mountain biking skills while helping address the public health crisis.”

The team is also building mountain biking trails that they hope will bring tourists to the town.

“They will be able to grow their economy in the form of restaurants, hotels, bike shops and other service industries,” says Carlson. “This would allow people to work close to home and their families. We have mapped out a 12-mile trail and are waiting on land rights before we can move forward with building.” 

Carlson, who has been working on this project for three years, says she has a personal connection to the project.

“I started working on this project because I love biking and being outdoors,” says Carlson. “I liked this project because I saw it as an opportunity to help a large group of people and make an impact.”

Shonto Pump Track team members

• Aly Carlson, chemical engineering

• Danielle Seddon, mechanical engineering

• Alexander Owen, civil engineering

• Christian Messner, mechanical engineering

• Jocelyn Zaman, computer systems engineering

• Kinshuk Agrawal, computer science

• Emma Pedersen, aerospace engineering

group of students sitting around desk

Students (from left to right) Nadia Jafar, Robert Lattus, Abbey Jansen, Philipe Adriane Inocencio and Rajat Arora show a prototype of a device that converts online text on a webpage to Braille. This project was part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service team Bridge2Africa, which earned third place at the EPICS Elite Pitch Competition. Photographer: Erika Gronek/ASU


The Bridge2Africa team is working to convert internet text to Braille to help bring online access to students at the Sibonile Schools for the Visually Impaired in South Africa.

“Our solution uses a software and hardware approach to allow students who are visually impaired to navigate the internet,” says Rajat Arora, an electrical engineering major. 

The next steps for the team include designing and prototyping the hardware portion of their solution, which includes a physical Braille display.

“Our software portion revolves around building a screen reader from scratch that parses through webpages,” says Arora. “This allows the user to decide whether the text is ready via audio feedback or through the Braille keyboard.”

Arora explains the members of the Bridge2Africa team all wanted to get involved in an EPICS project for the same reason: They wanted to contribute to an idea they could see implemented by the end of their college careers.

“As we progress through our engineering majors, we noticed that nearly everyone is the same: we all take the same classes, have the same technical skills and apply for the same internships,” says Arora. “At the end of the day, we wanted to be able to see an idea to the end that we had a significant impact on, and see a community prosper from it.”

Bridge2Africa team members

• Rajat Arora, electrical engineering

• Nadia Jafar, computer systems engineering

• Abbey Jansen, chemical engineering

• Phillippe Adriane Inocencio, computer systems engineering

• Robert Lattus, electrical engineering

These projects represent only three of the student-led endeavors developed to solve problems around the world. Fulton Schools students have been participating in EPICS projects since 2009 when ASU joined a consortium of 20 universities in the nationwide EPICS program.
Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Fifth Teachers College faculty member awarded NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

May 16, 2019

Keon McGuire, assistant professor at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, is having quite a year. This month, McGuire was selected as a 2019 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow; back in March he was named one of five Emerging Scholars for 2019–21 by the American College Personnel Association; and in December he and his partner Meskerem Z. Glegziabher became a father to their first child, Malcolm Ra’iy Zikru-McGuire.

The $70,000 fellowship provides funding and professional development to 30 early-career scholars throughout the U.S. working in critical areas of education research. man's portrait Keon McGuire Download Full Image

Black male feminism

“This project will give me an opportunity to focus on what I’m calling a black male feminist research and learning community,” McGuire said. “It’s an opportunity for black undergraduate men to engage with feminist literature, feminist ideas and to be in conversation with black feminists who are either professors or community organizers on campus or elsewhere.”

McGuire’s goal is to give these students an opportunity to rethink notions of masculinity and what it means to be a man, mainly in ways that are committed to resisting and dismantling patriarchy, sexism and homophobia.

“Over the year, we’ll have bimonthly meetings to engage in conversation or reflection on how the young men and myself have been socialized into what it means to be a man in ways that may be harmful to ourselves and other people and learn more about the ways race, gender and sexuality intersect in the lives of black women and queer folks,” he said.

“Typically, when you hear the word ‘feminism,’ the assumption is it’s just women who are feminists. That’s not correct. The notion of black male feminists is this idea that there are black men who can and should embrace feminist politics work to unlearn their own investments in patriarchy and struggle alongside women, trans and queer people for a more just society.  

“Whether the discussion is disproportionate disciplining of black girls in schools, the lack of media attention given to murdered black trans women, or unequal pay for women of color, the black male feminist point is: How can black men embrace feminism as a necessary strategy for achieving a safe and inclusive society?"

For the last four years, McGuire has led a study group at ASU called Visions of Black Manhood in his role as adviser to African American Men of ASU. The group talks about societal and cultural “rules” boys and men are taught, such as not crying and being tough and how this has affected their ability to ask for help, develop emotional intelligence and communicate effectively. The group also delves into more current topics, like the #MeToo movement and Black Lives Matter.

Gender privilege

McGuire, by his own account, hasn’t always been a feminist.

“Coming from North Carolina and the Bible Belt, the term feminism didn’t mean much to me. Of course, I thought women should get equal pay, not be sexually harassed, and could achieve anything a man could as evidenced through the example of my amazing mother and grandmother. But that was the extent of it,” he said.

Then he moved to Philadelphia for graduate school and met a great community of black and brown feminists.

“They became like family and really challenged and pushed me to be better. They called me out on my sexism, my homophobia and my transphobia in ways that were holding me accountable, yet still loving,” McGuire said. “I feel a responsibility to pay it forward.”

McGuire points out that black men are in no ways more committed to patriarchy than any other racial or ethnic group.

“The reason I focus on black men is because that’s the community I’m a part of and feel responsible for,” McGuire said. “And I’ve always wanted my work to have a meaningful impact and be relevant to the community that has given me so much.”

In the way that white allies are called to help develop racial consciousness for other white people, McGuire believes a lot of the effort to end patriarchy and misogyny falls in the hands of heterosexual men.

The conversation around patriarchy and sexism usually stops at issues of sexual assault and harassment, McGuire said.

“Men tend not to think about the ways that patriarchy and sexism influence so many other areas of life. We fall into this good guy/bad guy binary,” he said. “So if you’re not the overtly sexist guy, then you’re a good guy and everything else passes because you’re not the bad guy.”

There are many ways that patriarchy and the way men live out their masculinities become marginalizing for anyone who isn’t stricly a heterosexual male: domestically, in the workplace, through mansplaining and manspreading: “We must raise our consciousness and transform our politics when it comes to gender equity,” McGuire said.  

“Gender privilege allows us certain forms of advantages largely over women and trans folks as well. And for me, that means none of us are free until we are all free.”

Previous MLFTC faculty NAEd/Spencer Fellowship recipients:

Juan Carrillo, associate professor: His work looks at the role of agency in historically marginalized communities, with a particular focus on LatinxLatinx is the gender-neutral term for Latinos/Latinas. students. One of his focus areas is on the schooling trajectories of academically successful Latino males who come from working-class origins.  

Claudia Cervantes-Soon, associate professor: Her research interests center on critical ethnographic approaches to the study of identities, intersectionalities and pedagogical practices, with a particular focus on the fostering of agency, critical literacy and biliteracy, and empowered identities among children, youth and families from marginalized communities.

Amanda Tachine, postdoctoral scholar: She researches college and transition, sense of belonging and qualitative methodology, through an indigenous lens.

Bryan Henderson, assistant professor: His research focuses on oral argumentation and learning environments that allow students to feel more comfortable and motivated to talk and interact with one another.

Meghan Krein

Copywriter, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College