Profile in Sustainability – Jared Senese

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Jared Senese | Bachelor’s Degree, Electrical and Electronics Engineering| Class of 2017 

Why is sustainability meaningful to you, and how did you first become interested in renewable energy?

Sustainability is a way to beat the system. No one wants to go green unless there’s a profit. That’s what sustainability does. I’ve always had an interest in renewable energy, I had this naive image of it being the future, similar to flying cars. The more I learned about it, the more I was able to realistically picture renewable methods being used in today’s world. I will continue to consciously use, and actually re-use reusable bags, along with support companies that want to make a cleaner planet.

Could you talk about your experience working at the bike shop on campus and why alternative transportation methods are important to reducing emissions? 
I’ve grown up mountain biking. I’ve also grown up with the mindset of saving money and spend modestly, which is why I drive a 2000 PT Cruiser that costs $2000 and barely passes smog. Biking, along with public transportation is by far the way to go in order to not only reduce emissions, but also traffic and basically just make life less stressful. Unfortunately, San Diego is awful when it comes to planning public transit and they simply don’t care. Their solution is to simply make more houses so there’s even more traffic, so people’s lives are even more stressful. So how does a San Diegan fight this? With bikes! I ride wherever I can. I’ve done grocery trips on my bike and encourage many others to do the same as well. It’s my way of giving those politicians a middle finger.

What is the most valuable thing you learned while pursuing your degree at UC San Diego?
I learned that UCSD is filled with competitive students and you can get caught up competing against them and hating life. You can reach deep, dark places of misery and never see a light at the end of the tunnel. I envisioned working as an engineer would be the same as pursuing my Engineering degree in college, except with an angry boss that would always get upset with you. Fortunately, I am so thankful that this isn’t true. Engineering is booming right now. My current team with Keysight Technologies is always encouraging and supporting me. I couldn’t ask for a better company dynamic. All the hard work and grinding I did in college has paid off, and I encourage all engineers at UCSD that it is worth it. I had a college GPA of 2.7 and had to retake two classes, so it’s alright if you’re not the stellar student with the highest GPA (though I will say it is nice to have a high GPA).

Engineers for a Sustainable World [ESW] Solar Interact Unveiling

IMG_9617.JPGOn Wednesday, October 24, Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) celebrated the official unveiling of Solar Interact with a ribbon cutting at the Sustainability Resource Center.  Solar Interact is an exhibit where a user can interact with solar energy through a hand crank generator game. The user picks a difficulty level on the tablet and competes with a simulated solar panel located on top of Price Center. The goal of the game is to generate more power than a solar panel for 30 seconds. The different difficulty modes come from competing against different size solar panels. The solar panel measurements are from the solar panels on top of Price Center during peak hours of the day.

The lights on Geisel will light up corresponding to the instantaneous power generated by the solar panel on the left side and the user on the right side. This output of instantaneous power can also be seen on the tablet. 

The beginning of the game is initialized by the tablet sending the Arduino a start message via bluetooth. The Arduino begins reading measurements from the 3D printed crank. The 3D printed crank is attached through a metal rod to an encoder. The encoder tracks the rate at which the crank spins and reports this information to the Arduino microcontroller. The Arduino microcontroller processes the information and sends power output to the tablet via bluetooth. The Arduino also lights up the Geisel model with both the solar panel information and the user information. When the game ends, the tablet sends an end game message to the Arduino.

The goal of this project is to create an educational exhibit related to the positive impacts of using solar energy over electrical energy. It also features an interactive game where a user attempts to generate more energy than a solar panel through a hand crank. Not only is this exhibit educational, but it will also provide a service in the form of an interactive map of UC San Diego’s Price Center, and allow three engineering disciplines to gain hands-on experience in one project.

Learn more about Solar Interact here.

Global Climate Action Summit – Nikko Bouck

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Global Climate Action Summit 2018 

In early September, hundreds of people came together at the Global Climate Action Summit to address climate change and to “Take Ambition to the Next Level”. This conference has been developed on the belief that all social sectors play a critical role in mitigating climate change and have the responsibility to collectively commit to this mission. Undergraduate computer engineering student, Nikko Bouck was invited to the summit as a youth delegate and attended as a representative of UC San Diego.

Picture2Reflecting on his experience, Nikko summarized by saying “Thousands of dignitaries and delegates at this event were working to build some kind of sustainable infrastructure, system, or business” and iterated that much of the conversation revolved around the electrification of the transportation sector. While he appreciated the intent of the e-vehicle movement, he was critical of the hazards created by lithium-ion battery waste. Because battery recycling has not been developed to a sustainable and standardized scale, he worries that converting to electric vehicle fleets will catalyze “an ubiquitous environmental problem, as [lithium-ion batteries] are certainly volatile and can burn at great temperatures if not disposed of correctly”.

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Nikko with Arsenio Y. Mataka, Environmental Advisor to the California General, Xavier Becerra, discussing concerns about the electric vehicle push.

In voicing these concerns, Nikko also elaborated on potential solutions via his non-profit organization One Habitat Foundation. His organization has developed a software called Operation Trash Route that will be “introducing an e-waste collection option as a way to reduce the hassle people face when trying to find hazardous waste disposal”. He discussed this project with many representatives at the summit, including small-business owners, the Buenos Aires President of the EPA, and a member of the Mayoral Committee in Johannesburg.

Nikko truly embodied the theme of the Climate Action Summit – “Take Ambition to the Next Level”. Instead of simply celebrating the idea of converting the transportation sector to electric vehicles, he processed it with a critical eye and is making efforts to address its weaknesses.

Nikko was the 2018 recipient of UC San Diego Sustainability’s Outstanding Student Award. Read more about his accomplishments here.

Closing the Loop: Roger’s Community Garden’s Living Laboratory and Food Waste Collection Program

unnamed.jpgRoger’s Community Garden and Living Laboratory, part of the Bioregional Center for Sustainability, Planning, and Design, partner of UC San Diego’s Sustainability Department, and 2018 Winner of the UC San Diego Student Organization Sustainability Award, is raising the bar to reach UC Office of the President goals of carbon neutrality by 2025 and zero waste by 2020. Through its student-centered approach to experiential learning, Roger’s has been able to support a fully-functioning food waste to food and fuel system that converts food waste into renewable electricity, compost, and nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer, which all converge to produce more food to address student food insecurity at the Triton Food Pantry. The electricity generated by this system will feed into the battery storage banks incorporated into the Garden’s nanogrid, modeled after UC San Diego’s own microgrid. All aspects of the food-waste-to-food-and-fuel system are also working to be automated by undergraduates majoring in computer science and engineering disciplines using microprocessors such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi. This student-created design approach allows this system to close the carbon loop and make a recirculating food production system that uses all of its waste products to produce more food in a sustainable manner. In order to power the food-waste-to-food-and-fuel system, 1000 lbs of food waste per week from a dozen Price Center restaurant vendors is collected by student interns and volunteers in collaboration with University Centers.

Picture2.jpgThrough the interdisciplinary collaboration of students studying chemistry, engineering, computer science, speculative design, social sciences, and others, student-managed Roger’s Garden and Living Laboratory has been able to collect 10,100 lbs of food waste from January 22 to September 3, 2018, which equates to 1.14 tCO2eq sequestered, not including biogas generated or the CO2 sequestered from the resulting plant growth. Unlike other waste management solutions used by the university, which use trucks to transport food waste from Price Center to facilities in Otay Mesa or Oceanside, Roger’s program stays onsite, reducing carbon emissions and the associated costs from transportation. Roger’s Garden and Living Laboratory has also formed a unique series of partnerships with academia such as the Bioregional Center, local industry and nonprofits such as GRID Alternatives, Food2Soil, Global ARC of Oceanview Growing Grounds, Backyard Fruit Tree San Diego, alumni, and researchers which has provided undergraduates with the opportunity to engage with a variety of stakeholders and foster a interdisciplinary collaborative environment that encourages innovative solutions to climate change, food insecurity, waste diversion, conservation, and energy demands. Looking forward, Roger’s hopes to incorporate its innovations into the University Long Range Development Plan and standard university practices in order to lessen the footprint and improve the well-being of the students of UC San Diego and the people of the surrounding communities.

Green Outlet Project

Interview with Natalia Koga

econauts-natalia.jpgThrough the Green Outlet Program, students and staff can recycle materials that cannot go into single-stream recycling, and would otherwise go to the landfill. The Program consists of six compartment waste collection systems that are placed in the reslife offices. Using the compartments we collect batteries, ink cartridges, air cushions, writing instruments, water filters, and electronic waste. Once the bins are full, the Econauts team in HDH will then collect the waste and source the waste properly for disposal. 

When I was coming up with this project, I had done hours of research, looking at the factors that contribute to recycling. I had researched different processes and programs in other countries like Sweden, for example, and tried to understand what they have done to make it more compelling for people to mitigate their trash. I found that there were two major factors impacting an individual’s will to recycle–availability and time. If the resource isn’t there to collect or source items, it becomes very hard to even think to properly mitigate non-recyclable items. Those who are more aware and passionate about sustainability might look for outside sources, but most people aren’t aware so they won’t know to look. 

IMG_20181011_094404.jpgThe second issue is time. Time is precious, and if it requires a person to go “out of the way,” it’s inconvenient. UC San Diego, in fact, has many resources to collect these items already, but because they’re in specific locations spread around campus, it’s inconvenient for most students. More so, these locations are less known because they’re not the center of student involvement.

So that’s when I thought about making some sort of system that will be more convenient and more readily available at locations centered around student involvement. I was inspired by the Sustainability Resource Center‘s bin collection in their office, and I wanted to take what they did and apply it for HDH housing, the department that I worked for. Thereafter, it wasn’t long before I created a proposal, sorting out all the details and limitations that I then proposed to my manager. 

After my proposal was accepted, it didn’t take long to get the project off the ground and into reslife offices. The program exists in two reslife offices so far, Revelle and the Village. We hope to be able to have the program bins in every reslife office, and maybe even one day spread to other departments. This waste does not have a place inside our landfills and cannot be easily diverted here on campus. This project’s objectives is to provide closer outlets to students for proper disposal of particular waste, to promote utilization of resources on campus, and to promote sustainable practices. 

IMG_20181011_094520.jpgI actually have passed this project along to another team member of mine, as I decided to depart the Econaut‘s team to pursue other goals. With that said, I am so excited to see where the Econauts take the program and I hope students will get to hear more about what the Econauts at HDH do because they’re doing great things! 

My message to students would be to stay aware of how their waste systems work and stay mindful about how their practices affect the community. Every person’s actions are a contribution to a bigger cause, in some way or another. A person’s trash doesn’t end when they toss it in a bin–it lives to another place, another landfill, another ocean. The initiative to be more sustainable and a waste-free campus starts with us, the people. And I hope with the Green Outlet Program, it will help others to change where their contribution leads.