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Helping to inspire innovation within the San Diego community
12-1-2020 | Blog
By Tina Angeles, AIA
The highlight of my summer was participating in the University of California, San Diego Basement’s Converge Incubator program. The program originates from the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, which aligns resources to encourage and support an innovative community comprised of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community advocates. I was part of one of the program’s Civic Challenges, a new feature of the program that started in 2020. For the Civic Challenges, students were tasked with working on a series of issues faced by the San Diego region and how each issue can affect its long-term resiliency.
The challenges tackled issues, such as finding sustainable, non-toxic alternative building materials, finding the best way to identify municipal microgrid locations, and uncovering methods to help passengers with restricted mobility navigate the airport, which was made even more difficult with physical distancing requirements during the pandemic.
Each group was comprised of two to three students and were connected with advisers and mentors from both private and public entities around San Diego, such as the City of San Diego, SANDAG, San Diego Green Building Council, San Diego International Airport and The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP. I had the opportunity to collaborate on a new challenge for the program, as well as advise the team researching Red List chemicals and alternative building materials along with fellow adviser, Josh Dean of the San Diego green Building Council. We were invited to become advisers on this challenge by The Basement’s Director of Student Entrepreneurship and Blackstone LaunchPad Jacques Chirazi because of our respective backgrounds in building sustainability.
Our student team chose the name “Novel Team” for their group since they were looking into alternative materials for the Red List chemicals. The schedule was an intensive 8-week period for the undergraduate students to learn about innovation and tackle their challenge at the same time. We met with them bi-weekly so they could share the progress of their research and get advice on the direction that their solutions were taking. Since Red List materials is a complicated topic and they regularly make their way into most of our household items and building products, it was a big challenge. We helped the team narrow down their research by using Miller Hull’s Red List and they went further, choosing PVC, HPCs and Lead as three chemicals of concern to focus on. The team came up with a process to evaluate each material that provides a path for designers and builders to make better decisions in selecting materials to place into their buildings.
At the end of the 8 weeks, each team, including student teams who worked on their own startup ideas, had the opportunity to present their work to community members, staff, faculty, alumni and students at Converge Showcase as well as UC San Diego’s Summer Research Conference, San Diego County’s largest regional undergraduate research conference. I attend the showcase as a virtual program, and it was an impressive production. I learned a lot about other research topics that both undergraduate and graduate students worked on, including start-ups helping innovate solutions to existing problems.
It was a new and exciting experience for me to participate in this program. I enjoyed helping the students, working with Jacques Chirazi and Josh Dean and sharing what I could from my experience as an architect working on sustainable buildings. Following the 2020 program, Miller Hull has been invited to participate in the Innovation Sprints program during the spring semester. I’m very much looking forward to collaborating with students and UC San Diego staff again in the upcoming challenges.