CITRIS and the Banatao Institute at UC Santa Cruz has chosen three new student projects and two events for funding through the 2021-22 Tech for Social Good (TSG) Program.
The program’s Tech Development Track provides up to $5,000 in funding for student-led projects that aim to develop a solution to a significant societal challenge. Students are encouraged to form multi-disciplinary teams to develop innovative technology-centered projects, which are then selected through a competitive process.
This year’s funded projects and team members are:
Multimodal Virtual Assistant for Farmers
This project aims to leverage cutting-edge machine learning and data mining techniques to build a virtual assistant for farmers. The aim is to provide farmers with instant access to information that would not otherwise be easily accessible or available to them. Much of the valuable agriculture information on the internet seems to be dense, highly technical, and hard to find. Information about specific agricultural questions is relatively sparse compared to the information accessible in other domains. One motivation of this project is to inform farmers about how to make sustainable choices that are not only good for them economically, but also good for the world. The team wants to use state-of-the-art natural language processing techniques to create a tool that will bridge the information network gap between the untapped useful information and working farmers.
Team: Brian Mak, Graduate, Natural Language Processing; Wendi Tan, Undergraduate, Math; Brady Yung, Undergraduate, Computer Science.
Global Environmental Justice Observatory (GEJO)
The Global Environmental Justice Observatory (GEJO) seeks to explore and improve understandings of the interdisciplinary problems and applications of environmental justice and serve as a resource for students, academics, and the general public. A problem the team has identified within the academic environmental justice community is that much of the research being done has access restrictions. GEJO seeks to address this issue with its open-access website, which features its two main programs: the GEJO podcast (“Liminal Spaces”) and the Global Environmental Justice (GEJ) Journal. The GEJ Journal consists of undergraduate student research papers and theses exploring topics related to environmental justice. These papers are reviewed by the student-led editorial board, who work closely with the student researchers to refine their work leading up to publication. The goal of this journal is to present a more comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to environmental justice than is found in mainstream conversations, as well as to promote high caliber undergraduate student work. Funding will be used to develop the existing program and website as well as to host an art show featuring environmental art created by students, which will also be photographed and highlighted on the website.
Team: Caitlin Schilt, Undergraduate, Environmental Studies; Christina Vagnoni, Undergraduate, Sociology; Vishnu Nair, Undergraduate, Marine Biology; Sachi Powelson, undergraduate, Anthropology and Sociology; Alcides Fuentes, Undergraduate, Latin American and Latino Studies and Environmental Studies.
San Quentin COVID Archive: Stories from the Inside
The heart of this project is an online community zine featuring original artwork and writing from the currently incarcerated community at California prisons reflecting on their experiences surviving the COVID-19 outbreak. Digital storytelling is a way for incarcerated people to have agency in an environment in which agency is constantly taken from them. This archival project gives them access to the technology and tools they need to share their stories with people outside of prison. Furthermore, the project amplifies their experiences through various digital and print media across social media platforms to increase civic engagement that advocates for policy change. The goal of this project is multifold: to document emergent and unique cultural practices amidst the ever-shifting reality of COVID-19 behind bars, document the organizing that took place in response to COVID, create space for artistic expression and dignified storytelling by those directly impacted, shift public perceptions of incarcerated people, and educate the public on the urgent need for prison decarceration in order to save lives.
Team: Karina Diaz Alvarez, Undergraduate, Psychology; Milo Santamaria, Undergraduate, Sociology; Edward Estrada, Undergraduate, Politics.
The TSG Program also offers an Events Track, which is open on a rolling basis through early June 2022 for submissions of proposals by students for diverse events and programming in line with the program mission. Students can submit upcoming event proposals at: citris.smapply.org/prog/2021-2022_ucsc_tech_for_social_good_student-led_events/.
Events sponsored in 2021-22 to date are:
CruzHacks is a non-profit, student-run, annual hackathon based at UC Santa Cruz. Its mission is to advocate for more diversity in the tech industry while breaking barriers and addressing social issues through technological innovation. Each year the event welcomes hundreds of college and high school students interested in developing technology for social good. The organizing team strives to empower the next generation of creators by providing the tools, environment, and motivation to plausibly solve real-world problems. Since its founding in 2013, CruzHacks has expanded to better accommodate an ever-growing community of innovators. With the support of sponsors, the diverse group of attendees has the opportunity to build confidence, network, and develop solutions for social change (often using sponsors’ technology). CruzHacks partners with Major League Hacking (MLH), and the team is working hard to incorporate progressive design values into the experience.
Team: Sonali Malik, Undergraduate, Computer Science, Economics; Tony Ma, Undergraduate, Computer Science, Technology Information Management; Kaitlyn Allen, Undergraduate, Computer Engineering.
Everett Student Project Showcase: Embracing Change, Everett in Transition
The Everett Program (EP) for Technology and Social Change develops young leaders who use the technical, educational, and research resources of the university to work directly with communities, empowering people to develop practical and sustainable solutions to persistent social justice issues. Our educational philosophy is rooted in a holistic approach that engages students in linking theory, practice and personal development. In the EP, students are inspired to see technology as a tool for social change and environmental sustainability, and as an opportunity to bring communities together. The showcase event is an opportunity for students to present their year-long projects and celebrate the work they have accomplished despite the challenges of the pandemic.
Team: Elias Hovorka, Undergraduate, Sociology with concentration in Global Information and Social Enterprise Studies (GISES); Karina Cruz Rosales, Undergraduate, Sociology, GISES minor; Isabelle Aguirre, Undergraduate, Sociology, GISES minor; Karina Diaz Alvarez, Undergraduate, Psychology and Legal Studies, GISES minor; Alexandra Munoz, Undergraduate, Legal Studies, GISES minor; Kristina Bullington, Undergraduate, Anthropology, GISES minor; Mo Dick, Undergraduate, Sociology, GISES minor.
The Tech for Social Good Program at UCSC, co-sponsored by the Institute for Social Transformation, was launched in 2019. Information about previous year’s teams and their projects and events are available online at citris.sites.ucsc.edu/funded-projects-and-events. For any questions about the program, please contact Michael Matkin, CITRIS UCSC Assistant Director, at email@example.com.