Using magnetic resource imaging, or MRI, to harmlessly detect seeds in Mandarin oranges. Identification of pathogens in an image library with artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose plant disease. Creating a robot to more efficiently manufacture a robot. Building a user-friendly database to organize information for a global tech organization. Production-grade employee coaching and training applications for a large cold chain industry and a multinational computer storage company. A one-stop shop for underrepresented students to discover resources and opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) fields and build their networks. An application for monitoring crop health using satellite imagery for a large food processing company.
These are just a handful of the projects the public is invited to see at one of UC Merced's marquee events, set to take place this week.
I2G, short for Innovate to Grow, highlights capstone projects of students in UC Merced's highly ranked School of Engineering. Teams of students take part in a competition that culminates months of research and work.
But these are not just academic exercises, explained Stefano Foresti , director of innovation. Teams work with companies, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations to solve problems they have identified. These could involve engineering or software.
"These capstone teams are led by students," Foresti said. Faculty mentors the teams, but "they are the contractors. We are really preparing them to be on their own."
Roughly 50 projects are completed each semester. When I2G started in 2012, projects focused on the engineering side, but in recent years software has grown to be equally strong.
The projects tackled by the students involve a variety of industries including agriculture, food processing, water, energy, health care, finance, transportation, construction, materials, information technology and networking.
Some of those innovations can help, or turn into, small businesses in the community.
"It's very intensive," Foresti said. "These are real industry problems, and these students end up with real-world solutions. They are solving real things."
Some of the projects are aimed at making industrial processes more effective; others produce a new product or service. Sponsoring community partners, many of which are already doing cutting-edge work in their fields, include The Morningstar Co., E&J Gallo, Western Digital, Bay Area Rapid Transit and Valley Children's Hospital, among many others.
"I2G is a unique experience for UC Merced," Dean of Engineering Rakesh Goel said in a welcome on the website. "Best wishes to all the students."
He invited interested companies to sponsor projects.
Teams will display and demonstrate their projects in a showcase Thursday on campus, then present them for judging. Registration opens at 10:30, with an expo at 11:30 and presentations starting at 2 p.m. The event concludes with an awards ceremony at 5:45 p.m., followed by a reception at 6 p.m.
More information is available at the I2G website .