Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP) Symposium held

By Sharon Henry

Irvine, May 19, 2017 — Student-fellows from the 2016-2017 Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP) met Saturday, May 13, to present their design projects at a symposium held in the CALIT2 auditorium. The 80 current fellows had been selected to participate in 16 projects mentored by 39 faculty and graduate students project leads.

MDP engages UCI undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines in design teams, co-mentored by at least two faculty mentors from different schools. Participants have the opportunity to choose from a variety of innovative and creative design projects related to the areas of energy, the environment, healthcare, and culture. Now in its seventh year, the program is designed to help students develop the multidisciplinary skills and knowledge that will propel them into graduate studies or careers in fields that explore the connections between different concentrations.


Enhancing ex vivo Transfection of Macrophages for use as Delivery Vectors for Cancer Suicide Gene Therapy

Students:  David Ju, Margaret Lugin, Aftin D Pomeroy, Diane Shin, Danessa Yip
Mentors: Dr. Henry Hirschberg, Dr. Young Jik Kwon

Glioblastoma multiforme represents 60% of all malignant brain tumors but despite the recent technological advances in surgery and radio and chemo therapy, these procedures have not been able to significantly improve the prognosis of patients. Improved treatment modalities, such as gene therapy are therefore clearly needed. Suicide gene therapy, involves transfection, into target cells, of non-mammalian genes encoding enzymes that convert nontoxic pro-drugs into toxic metabolites capable of inhibiting nucleic acid synthesis.
Photochemical internalization (PCI) has been previously demonstrated to significantly increase transfection efficiency into tumor cells. Laser-based PCI was used to enhance the transfection of suicide genes into macrophages employing core/shell nanoparticles as gene carrier. Macrophages have the advantage of carrying relatively large payloads of therapeutic nanomaterials, are patient derived in large numbers, can be transfected ex vivo and are able to actively infiltrate tumors despite many barriers often present in the microenvironment. The suicide gene loaded cells will act as a cellular “Trojan Horse” actively migrating to and infiltrating into the targeted tumor. Following nontoxic prodrug exposure, the resulting converted active drug will be produced in the transfected Ma and exported into the tumor microenvironment, killing the” bystander” adjacent tumor cells.

A Novel Nanopatterned Antimicrobial Contact Lens

Students: Mossab Alsaedi, Samuel Cabrera, Sara E. Heedy, Van K. Ly
Mentors: Dr. Eric Pearlman, Ms. Rachel Rosenzweig, Dr. Albert F. Yee

Contact lenses (CLs) are the second most used medical device, with more than 30 million wearers in the U.S. However, contact lenses often become infected by microbes such as bacteria and fungi, leading to one million doctor visits annually. Such infections are among categories of antimicrobial resistance challenges recently addressed as “a dominant threat to global health” by leaders at the 2016 United Nations General Assembly. Symptoms of infections include eye pain, redness, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and can lead to blindness. We have fabricated a novel antimicrobial composite material for the CL using the technique of nanoimprint lithography to apply additional nanostructured surface patterns that have been shown to exhibit anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. The bio-composite is comprised of inherently bactericidal chitosan and its source chitin, the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose. We have performed different testing methods to ensure the chitosan films’ viability as contact lens materials. Our results indicate that our dry chitosan films have an elastic modulus of 2.14 GPa and the wet chitosan film has 0.03 GPa.These are comparable to commercial CL’s, such as hard CL (PMMA) (2.74 GPa) and soft CL (PHEMA) (0.001 GPa). The optical transmittance test shows that flat chitosan has excellent light transmittance as flat PMMA hard CLs, while nanostructured chitosan film has desirable light transmittance above 85% in the visible light range. The measured contact angle indicates that flat chitosan has higher wettability than flat PMMA while nanostructured chitosan has wettability slightly higher than nanostructured PMMA.

Bioimprinter Development and Optimization

Student: Jonathan Pusavat
Mentors: Dr. Lawrence Kulinsky, Professor Arash Kheradvar

This multi-disciplinary project aims to development a bioimprinter prototype capable of conformal coating of cell-laden hydrogels onto uneven surfaces. The prototype bioimprinter consists of an array of spring-loaded thin tubes arranged in a square (4x4 and 5x5) grids. The bioimprinter prototype can be enhanced by connecting syringes to individual pipes to express the hydrogel through the pipes in order to have individual dots of gel to merge into a continuous gel layer. It is planned also to have syringes actuated with servomotors controlled via Arduino boards. The final stage of development involved multiple syringes each powered by their own servomotor. The initial results indicated a success of the dot matrix pattern, and under the guidance of Drs. Lawrence Kulinsky and Arash Kheradvar, such a device allowed us to print on uneven surfaces, and will facilitate the eventual development of advanced replacement heart valves.

Cleaning Waikiki’s Ala Wai Canal

Students: Amber Fong, Georges Hatem, Yifan Qu, Charles Settle
Mentors: Dr. Kristen Davis, Dr. Derek Dunn-Rankin, Dr. Sunny Jiang

The Ala Wai Canal, on the island of Oahu in Hawaii is an artificial waterway that runs through the heart of Honolulu’s tourist resort area of Waikiki. Today the canal is polluted by urban runoff from Manoa and Palolo streams and sewage overflows, as well as by the increased population of Waikiki. The purpose of this project is to develop a solution for the pollution problem in the Ala Wai Canal, which poses human health concerns since the canal is still being used recreationally. For this project, our team incorporated principles of and research in mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, and urban planning. Our proposed solution to the pollution problem is to build a tunnel connecting the upstream of the canal and the coast to pump seawater into the canal. The seawater pumped into the canal creates water velocity, which will dilute the concentration of pollutants and lethal bacteria to safe levels. This will satisfy the standards of the Clean Water Act to safely allow people to swim and fish there. Building the tunnel under public streets will circumvent buildings, which is safer and avoids the need to negotiate with private property owners. Since this project is mainly theoretical research, further digital and physical modeling will be needed to simulate our proposed solution.

English Language Learners, Large Lectures, and Active Learning

Students: Qiyu Chen, Yuhua Fang, Tara Hajnorouzali, Pauline Ho, Rui Ning, Dorreen Sun, Jade Vasconcellos, Danwei Wang, Ryan Wang, Jerona Yu
Mentors: Dr. Judith Sandholtz, Dr. Brian Sato, Chris Stillwell, Dr. Julio Torres

As the enrollment of English language learners (ELLs) increases at colleges and universities throughout the US, issues arise regarding ways of meeting the unique needs of this population. Sadly, the literature on this population is notoriously thin (Harklau, 2000). Research is necessary to determine the needs of English language learners (ELLs) in higher education, the personal habits and behaviors that contribute to their success, and the instructional approaches that are most effective.

To meet the need for research on this population, ten undergraduate students with experience as ELLs themselves came together to work as research assistants (RAs) on a research project that would leverage their unique expertise.

The RAs first explored their own experiences via interactive journals on Google Docs, responding to questions posed by the project leader. This process helped the RAs to reflect upon challenges and critical incidents in their own educational experiences, and to identify specific aspects of ELLs’ experiences that needed further investigation. As they did so, they gained experience as interview participants, and they generated questions for interviews they would subsequently conduct with ELLs at UCI.

The RAs then observed large lecture classes and recruited ELLs for interviews about the students’ experiences in the classes, about the challenges they face in higher education, and about the strategies they use for meeting those challenges. After transcribing and coding the interview data, the RAs juxtapose the findings from these interviews with their prior personal reflections to identify key needs and strategies of ELLs in higher education. 

Iris: A Social Media Platform for Healthy Living

Students: Emma Anderson, Tianna Nand, Tej Vuligonda
Mentors: Dr. G.P. Li, Dr. Mark Bachman

Orange County is home to 4.6 million people age 65 and older. This number is set to double by 2040 (Orange County Healthy Aging Initiative, 2016). Iris is a social media platform that aims to promote healthy aging among the elderly Orange County community. The Iris website will offer games, animations, healthy recipes, and a list of local events to its users. These features will inspire seniors to get excited and active in their communities. In addition to the student team, the Iris project collaborates with the Irvine Health Foundation. Iris is a two-year project. We expect the Iris website to launch Spring 2018. In preparation for the Iris website build, the students underwent technical training. Students met weekly to learn HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
languages in order to better understand front-end web development. Others worked on back-end web development and went through training in PHP, Apache, and NodeJS. Students also worked on content development and created animations as a form of entertainment for the users. When the website is launched, we will publish the creative content and apply front-end and back-end skills learned to upkeep the website. We will also work with senior homes in Orange County to create a focus group for our website.

Making Plastic Printing Sustainable

Students: William Amos, Aldrin Lupisan, Sharon To, Ian Pareja, Derek De Los Angeles, Andrew Hnat, Tucker Moody, Christian Datu, Ivette Morales
Mentors: Jesse Jackson, Mark Walter

As the additive manufacturing industry grows, a new form of plastic waste is being generated by these machines. The purpose of this project is to design, fabricate, test, and refine a demonstrative system of what 3D printing might look like in a future that is sensitive to pollution and limited resources. Making Plastic Printing Sustainable is reinventing the way makers dispose of their plastic waste by providing a synergistic system that integrates waste plastic recovery, custom filament extrusion, and renewable sources of energy. Previous work involved gathering the necessary equipment to complete the process of mechanical recycling: grinding, melting, and spooling. This past year was dedicated to utilizing, re-engineering, and customizing the components that constitute the new system to address the issues that arise from attempting to recycle plastic into 3D printable material. Several key developments include an ergonomic grinding mechanism, an automated diameter controller, and an integrated solar- and bicycle-powered energy system. Successful implementation of this system can add value to waste plastic while also decreasing the negative impact of conventional recycling practices. 

Preliminary Efficacy Testing of an Intervention for Pain Management in Children Undergoing Cancer Treatment: Pain Buddy

Students: Beverly Mendoza, Mai Makhlouf, Gabrielle Aroz
Mentors: Dr. Michelle Fortier, Dr Zeev Kain

Mobile health technology plays a vital role in children with cancer and has the potential to address the issue of under-treated pain. The purpose of this study is to explore the preliminary efficacy of Pain Buddy, an interactive web-based intervention to manage cancer pain and symptoms in children. Pain Buddy encompasses a validated pain and symptom diary, coping skills training, an electronic communication tool and a three-dimensional avatar to guide the child through the program. To evaluate the preliminary efficacy of Pain Buddy, 19 children (14 male, 5 female) ages 8-12, undergoing cancer treatment were recruited to complete an 8-week study involving completion of symptom diaries twice daily. Out of 19 children recruited, 8 were randomly assigned to the Pain Buddy intervention group; 11 were placed in the attention control group. A healthcare provider monitored symptom diaries in the intervention group. On average, children completed 96.79 ±19.34 diaries over the 8-week period. Of the 1591 total diaries completed, 113 resulted in symptom trigger alerts, which was a symptom rate of 7.10%. On average, children in the intervention group spent 4.23 + 0.96 hours in the Pain Buddy program over the 8 weeks, while children in the attention control group spent 3.44 + 2.73 hours in the program over 8 weeks. When comparing for pain severity over the study period, children in the intervention group reported significantly lower pain severity since the last diary entry than the children in the attention control group (U = 607.50, p <. 0.001). 

PET: A Personal Embodied Trainer to Promote Physical Exercise at Home

Students: Alejandro Carmona Carbajal, Christian Morte, Garett Omholt, Tina Wu, Shirley Zhu
Mentors: Dr. Sergio Gago-Masague, Dr. John Billimek, Dr. G.P. Li

Exercise is an important factor in sustaining and strengthening a person’s health, yet exercise is often neglected due to lack of motivation. PET (Personal Embodied Trainer) is a highly
interactive application that helps guide users through physical exercises that can be performed daily, tracks progress throughout every use, and provides constant feedback for improving form.
It differs from traditional workout applications by using real-time motion sensor data to provide accurate feedback, providing visual data, guidance and motivation. Although there are hundreds
of mobile apps in the online market to exercise, few utilize smartphone sensors and the TV display to provide real-time feedback. PET uses the Chromecast to display guidance on a TV,
including an avatar to demonstrate and guide through exercises. Our application also features Focus-Motion, a software library that helps analyze the user’s exercise repetitions and critical
data from each movement. The feedback is essential for tracking users’ progress as they perform the exercise regimens. We have found that, through the use of Focus-Motion and displays from
the Chromecast, we can provide accurate feedback from movement data that may help engaging users in physical exercise. The initial goal of the application is to engage and guide students to
increase their daily physical activity amidst busy study schedules, especially during sedentary activities such as studying or sitting in lectures for many hours.

PMUI: A Power Manager User Interface to Promote Energy Efficiency in Desktop Computers

Students: Faustino Aguirre, Imran Abid Chowdhry, Fabian Garcia, Ahmed Magdi Gorashi, Apurva Ashok Jakhanwal, Shirby Wang
Mentors: Dr. Sergio Gago, Dr. Joy Pixley

The Power Management User Interface (PMUI) assists desktop users in saving energy by adapting sleep settings to user behavior. Its primary goal is to reduce the time that desktop computers are on but inactive. The intended energy savings by power management settings in operating systems are not being understood by desktop users. Therefore, this project attempts to redesign the current PMUI by incorporating low-power modes, human-computer interaction, feedback, reminders, and rewards for the users. This application is not intended to replace the power saving feature present in most modern operating systems, but instead work on top of it. It presents an easy-to-access and intuitive user interface to manage power settings. 

We collect data such as the current sleep settings (in minutes), how long the computer is idle, active, sleeping, and off. From this data, a suggested sleep setting can be calculated based on the user’s computer habits. The data also helps us in displaying the time spent idle of each day of the week and display the pattern of states the computer has been in throughout each day. The suggested sleep setting is meant to be a compromise between idle time and user usage behavior. With data visualization and usage behavior analysis, PMUI encourages greater utilization of low-power modes by desktop users by seeking to establish a dynamic relationship between user satisfaction and energy efficiency.

Safety and Effectiveness of Resistance Exercise Training in Patients with Late Onset Pompe Disease – A Pilot Study

Students: Caleb Bhatnagar, Bhumi Ramani, Jeet Shah
Mentors: Dr. Vincent Caiozzo, Dr. Virginia Kimonis, Dr. Bruce Tromberg

Pompe disease is a rare inherited progressive autosomal recessive neuromuscular disorder associated with muscle weakness and respiratory insufficiency that can affect all ages, ethnicities, and gender. While the enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) became clinically available and works very well in the cardiac muscle of patients who present in infancy with large hearts due to excessive glycogen storage, it is not as effective in patients who present after infancy with muscle weakness. Stabilization or some improvement has been seen in patients with a later onset, it is worthwhile to investigate other therapies that may slow the progression of their condition and improve quality of life. In this context, exercise/physical activity seems like an obvious choice, because activities like resistance training (RT) are known to be anabolic and produce muscle hypertrophy and improved muscle function in normal individuals. Somewhat shockingly very little is known about the role of physical activity in mitigating the muscle atrophy associated with Pompe disease. To our knowledge, previous studies have not examined the therapeutic efficacy of using RT to blunt/prevent the loss of muscle mass and function in patients with Pompe disease. Hence, the goal of this proposal is to evaluate and document potential benefits of RT in compliant patients and describe the benefit of combining enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) with RT. In the second aim of our study we will be testing and measuring patient respiratory function. We propose analyzing the activity level of the subjects between the baseline period and the exercise study with a health and exercise monitoring device/activity tracker. Our findings were that the exercise had an overall increase in muscle and respiratory strength for our patients. Due to adverse effects, it was not easy to show improvement in every muscle group but we hope to make better concluding results as more patients go through this study.

Putting Education into Educational Apps for Preschoolers

Students: Gary Machlis, Jessica Chen, Melissa Callaghan, Krithika Jagannath
Mentor: Dr. Stephanie Reich, Dr. Joshua G. Tanenbaum

Despite the thousands of educational applications (apps) targeted towards preschool children (Livingston, 2016), few align with established principles of early childhood learning
(Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2015). This multidisciplinary study aims to create a preschool math app that incorporates educational concepts and game design principles, while supporting the physical and
cognitive abilities of young children through the many functionalities touchscreen devices provide (Vatavu, Cramariuc, & Schipor, 2015). By doing so, this research can illuminate new ways of teaching preschoolers about mathematics that are fun and easy to scale-up way.

We started by reviewing the literature and surveying the current landscape of math apps for preschool-aged children. Next, using prior research on child-interactions with technology
(Livingstone, 2016), we conducted a paper prototype, testing the specific actions children can perform when interacting with touchscreens as well as the mathematical tasks that are
appropriate for our target age range (3-5 year olds). For instance, we assessed finger dragging, hand-drawn division of fractions, and use of multi-touch for representing mathematical concepts
(e.g., counting, cardinality). Following this, our goal is to test these skills digitally, specifying structural features (e.g., hit-box sizes) and design features (e.g., asset types). Thus, our next steps
are to create a calibration test of 6 phases in Unity, conduct user testings, and utilize the data we gather to aid in the design of our educational math game.

Single Controller, Multi-Robot System (SCMR)

Students: Yuji Dornberg, Jeffrey Berhow, Anurag Vaddi Reddy, Carla Contreras
Mentors: Dr. Lee Swindlehurst, Dr. Jeffrey L. Krichmar, Dr. Michael Green

This project developed a swarm of semi-autonomous mobile ground robots. Topics addressed during the project included developing methods for helping a group of robots to navigate through obstacles, such as through narrow passages or around objects in their path, avoiding collisions with each other and when possible maintaining a swarm-like formation. This was achieved using multiple sensors interfaced with an Arduino and a Raspberry Pi. Due to the simplistic and cost effective design these drones will be affordable for universities to purchase for classes and research. This will make swarm robotics easily accessible to the next generation of engineers and computer scientists as they work to develop new swarm algorithms to accomplish various tasks.
We aimed for the drones to be constructed with only easily accessible parts and to include enough software to allow researchers to immediately begin testing swarm and obstacle avoidance
algorithms. Using a camera feed viewed through a 360-degrees lens and LED beacons, the robot can ascertain the position and distance of surrounding robots. Using ROS and a Wi-Fi network,
the robots can communicate their current states to each other. IR sensors on each robot allow for obstacle avoidance. Our robot provides a generic solution to swarm robotics with enough potential to be applied for projects such as search and rescue as well as security applications
using their distributed sensing.

Spine-RadTM Brachytherapy Bone Cement

Students: Yasmeen Abuzeid, Elizabeth Chung, Parth Desai, Christina Hanna, Sophia Ynami
Mentors: Dr. Joyce Keyak, Dr. Mikael Nilsson

Spinal metastases (tumors) are a common and painful manifestation of many cancers which reduce bone strength, potentially leading to vertebral collapse. Vertebroplasty followed by external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is a current treatment for vertebral metastases that alleviates pain while slowing tumor growth. However, EBRT irradiates the spinal cord, limiting the dose that can be delivered to tumors. To address these limitations, researchers developed Spine-RadTM Brachytherapy Bone Cement, a bone cement mixed with a radioactive powder, Phosphorous-32-hydroxyapatite (P-32-HA), which allows a higher dose to be delivered to tumors while virtually eliminating the harm of radiation to the spinal cord. The goal of this project was to design, test, package, and document procedures for safely mixing and delivering the Spine-Rad cement with P-32-HA into patients with spinal metastases. To achieve this goal, the materials needed to be medical grade and gamma sterilizable or autoclavable. With that knowledge, one of six potential SolidWorks conceptual designs was chosen for fabrication. The fabricated prototype consists of a flexible tube with capped barbed connectors and a center clamp mounted on a stand with a revolving rod to mix the cement; further experiments were performed to assure uniform mixing of the powders. This device will be gamma sterilized, shipped, mounted on an autoclavable stand, and used within a procedure room when performing vertebroplasty with Spine-Rad cement.

Variations in Pain Experience

Students: Gabriela Hernandez, Marixa Maldonado, Sanika Joshi, Diana Dominguez Ortega, Susan Koh
Mentors: Amanda Acevedo, Dr. Belinda Campos, Dr. Michelle Fortier

Pain is influenced by biological, psychological and sociocultural factors, including socioeconomic status (SES) (Rahim-Williams et al., 2007). Early studies on pain found that higher SES was associated with tolerating more pain (Schuldermann & Zubek, 1962). More recently, researchers have found individuals of lower SES backgrounds were two to three times more likely to feel disabled by pain compared to individuals of higher SES (Dorner et al., 2011). The current study aims to investigate the relationship between SES and pain. We recruited undergraduate students (n = 50; 80% female; 64% Latino, 36% European American; Mage = 20.67) through the Social Science Human Subjects Pool. After consenting and completing questionnaires, participants completed a cold pressor task, in which they were instructed to submerge their non-dominant hand in a bucket of cold water (5 °C) until they could not tolerate it any longer (up to 4 minutes). Throughout the task, participants rated their pain every 30 seconds. After a 5-minute recovery period, demographic data were collected, including SES. Pearson correlations were conducted between self-reported pain during the cold pressor task and socioeconomic status. Results among variables showed no statistically significant associations between pain outcomes and SES. Of note, some students reported their parents’ socioeconomic status while others reported their own income level, which may have impacted findings. Nonetheless, given previous research describing the relationship between SES and pain, further examination of the association of these constructs may be helpful and have implications for treating pain in a medical setting.

Orthogonal/Proabot Flotilla
(This project was not presented at the symposium)
Students:Asis Nath, Anthony Lee, Steven Hu
Mentors: Simon Penny, J. Michael McCarthy

Orthogonal/Proabot Flotilla is a radically transdisciplinary research project involving anthropology with the hydrodynamics and aerodynamics. The process involves designing, prototyping with materials science. In addition, traditional and contemporary artisanal practices are used with sustainability in mind. The goal of this research project is to build a prototype for a fleet of inexpensive and environmentally friendly autonomous sailing craft which is based on Micronesian Voyaging canoes—powered by the sunlight and the wind—for oceanographic and environmental research. The prototype is radio controlled that uses a custom-control interface using two-way radio communication and custom sensors with actuators. The final version will be linked to the internet via satellite. The prototype will have a controller and a boat that carries Arduino micro-controllers. Sail and rudder positions given by the controller are managed by onboard sensor feedback. The first sensor suite includes custom anemometer, wind direction indicator, water speed sensor and digital compass. Other sensors for collecting data like turbidity, water chemistry, currents, temperature and radiation will be developed.

Students interested in participating in the 2017 Multidisciplinary Design Program can find information at;

-- Sharon Henry