Cal State LA's students creating 'smart' tech for county transportation management
- A partnership between the California State University, Los Angeles, and the L.A. County Parks and Recreation Department aims to create a computerized program for department workers to log hours and use of Park and Rec vehicles, Govtech.com reports. The plan is expected to cost less than $100, and could save the department many lost employee work hours they now spend filling out paperwork. Senior computer science students were assigned to implement a microcontroller (Raspberry Pi) with a card reader that will allow employees to tap their Park ID, and the microcontroller will record the trip and send the information to an Internet of Things platform, fully automating the process.
- This is not an isolated project. Today, about two-thirds of seniors' projects are sponsored by industry or government agencies, Govtech.com says. Teams of four or five students work with a faculty advisor, as well as a technical partner from the company or public-sector department, and the team projects are on display each year at the university’s Project Expo. Many are interdisciplinary projects that involve both engineers and computer science students.
- School administrators say it’s not unusual for sponsors to make job offers to one or more members of their project teams. For sponsors, the project is like a year-long candidate interview, says Emily Allen, dean of Cal State LA’s College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology, in the report. “It’s a great way for students to work on real projects with real customers,” Allen says.
The future of our cities is undoubtedly smart.In the near future, “smart” technology, for example, could be used to monitor road repairs based on traffic use, weather and other measurable effects; street lights will learn when the sun sets at different times of the year through data input; and with the advancement of self-driving vehicles, even garbage pickup could be completely automated.
The speedy movement toward smart cities requires humans to develop technology and monitor data. This provides a huge opportunity for engineering and computer students to do hands-on work. To that end, collegiate STEM departments must proactively seek partnerships with public agencies, work with them to develop projects that solve real problems and provide faculty to support the student team/government effort. College administrators also need to provide students and faculty the flexibility and space to work on such projects.
At the same time, colleges could benefit from turning to computer and engineering students to streamline and modernize some of their own outdated MOs. When should street lighting or building lights throughout campus turn on and off? How could library checkouts and returns be handled through full automation? Which study areas on campus are over- or under-utilized? These are a handful of challenges students could help solve, which in turn could help colleges run more effectively.
As IoT becomes an increasingly important part of the overall economy, cities, states and universities also can benefit from the research and innovations made by both students and faculty.