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Senior Projects Showcase the Versatility of LAES Program

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L-R: Kevin Lufkin, Michael Haungs (LAES co-chair), Oliver Adams, Ethan Lockwood, Sven Le, Jeffrey Boncan Cabanez, Jane Lehr (interim LAES co-chair) (not pictured: Massimo Giboldi and Brandon Kuhr)

With an eclectic set of senior projects ranging from fully-accessible raised garden beds to a film that chronicles the life of a man who has been in and out of jail 33 times since the age of 13, the varied interests of liberal arts and engineering studies (LAES) students reinforce the versatile talents and possibilities of the program.

The interdisciplinary nature of the LAES curriculum gives students the unique opportunity to pursue their own interests, especially those that may not be addressed in traditional disciplines. In doing so, students are able to push the boundaries, or create the boundaries, in emerging fields.

“Within LAES, each student project grows the culture of what is possible and what it means to be a student within this new field,” said Jane Lehr, 2013-15 LAES senior project co-advisor, ethnic studies associate professor and Women’s & Gender Studies Department chair.

“Students who thrive in the project-based, self-directed Liberal Arts & Engineering Studies Program provide a new public image of what it can mean to earn a degree that centrally values the humanities, the social sciences, communication, technological training, and Cal Poly’s commitment to Learn by Doing in hands-on contexts.”

Ethan Lockwood: Fully Accessible Raised Garden Beds

It’s good for the soul to get your hands dirty with a little gardening. In this spirit, Lockwood worked with The Ranch, a nonprofit organization that empowers people with disabilities to engage in agriculture, open-air activities, and job skills training. He worked to make the venue more welcoming and accessible to people of all needs and abilities, so they could participate in meaningful gardening work and reap the many benefits, including positive impacts on mental and emotional health. Lockwood conducted in-depth research on the site’s capacity and ability to sustain raised garden beds in three different styles and fostered community relationships that provided the support necessary to make the project a reality. The project’s conclusion in June 2014 resulted in a locally funded farming area for The Ranch that opens outdoor fun to all members of the community.

Andrew Webber: Waste Heat Reclamation for Commercial Use

The need for the early morning latte, espresso and cappuccino is a feeling all too familiar to college students and busy professionals. Aside from the daily attack on consumer budgets, it turns out that creating espresso-based drinks is not very efficient — an unwelcome finding for green espresso lovers. Espresso machines typically cannot keep up during busier hours, because the water temperature decreases when new water is added, requiring time for re-adjustment to the desired heat levels. Webber sought to alleviate one side of the problem by making the espresso-making process less wasteful by raising the temperature of the ground water before it enters the machine. Partnering with Dutch Bros. Coffee, Webber designed a method for reclaiming waste heat from espresso machines in an innovative way that would increase the machine’s ability to meet higher consumer demand, in turn helping business owners see a higher return on investment.

Brandon Kuhr: Malachi Chavez — ‘From Banging to Baking’ Documentary

Kuhr partnered with Restorative Partners, a nonprofit organization dedicated to healing all individuals affected by crime through restorative justice programs, to tell a remarkable story of transformation. He provided an intimate portrait of the psychological and personal effects of jail time and the positive changes that can occur with dedicated support from organizations like Restorative Partners. Kuhr told the story of Malachi Chavez by using cinematic skills he learned through the LAES program. He tracked Chavez’s journey from gang-banging to his current job baking at the Madonna Inn, demonstrating how programs like Restorative Partners can transform lives.

Massimo Giboldi: Node Performance Testing

Music Putty is a Cal Poly-born startup focused on creating direct connections between music makers and their existing and potential fans. Giboldi’s senior project focused on increasing the performance of the Music Putty server by examining the testing on Node JS, a server-side implementation of JavaScript. Giboldi developed tests to ensure Music Putty not only functioned properly but remained a reliable music source for the listeners and independent musician clients.

Sven Le: ‘The LAES Pocketbook for Filmmaker Enthusiasts’

Le undertook the task of creating an essential guide for Cal Poly student filmmakers. The pocketbook addresses the many questions and confusing aspects associated with filmmaking, easing beginner students into the discipline and increasing chances of success. The book covers film basics, ranging from filming techniques and editing theory to media output, and was written with the Cal Poly student in mind.

Jeffrey Boncan Cabanez: Student Stress at Cal Poly

Stress is a fact of life during college, but students can respond to stress in ways that more positively or negatively shape their lives. With this in mind, Cabanez set out to explore the ways students across campus define stress and how they manage and eliminate it. To support the effort, Cabanez conducted a survey and created a documentary that explored the project’s results. Cabanez created the video with student testimonials about stress and how they coped with anxious feelings.

Kevin Lufkin: Designing a Goal-Journaling Application

Many of us look to online applications as part of our efforts to get more organized. However, as Lufkin discovered through his research, users typically try many different applications and never fully commit to one program. Lufkin’s hypothesis for why so many can’t stick with a program is that most management applications focus on task completion rather than user motivation, focusing on requiring users log back in and self-report completion of tasks. For his project, Lufkin created a Web application that applies journaling techniques to goal accomplishment, improving individual progress through a multitude of tasks by helping the user visualize the incremental steps necessary for success. He hopes his project will offer users a relatively hands-off organizational tool that keeps users motivated by placing a greater emphasis on the process and the perception of small goals as important stepping stones.

Oliver Adams: Motion-Controlled Camera Crane

A film that stays with you often proposes a different angle of people, situations and landscapes. These unique shots are a result of hard work and collaboration between art and technology. Adams explored this collaboration through the development of a motion-controlled crane to increase the tools filmmakers have at their disposal. His goal was to create a technocrane filmmaker with a wide range of motion that would be affordable, as current products on the market cost upwards of $100,000. Working with Aspect Studios, Adams built a miniature version of the full-size, 20-foot design. He plans to continue working with Aspect Studios to finalize a design and eventually make the crane a reality.

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