Innovation sign

How do you spell ideas?  Well, if you are enrolled at University of California at Santa Cruz, you just might spell it with an extra ‘s’.  And no, this most likely is not because of a night out at the bar.

You see green technology is brewing in Santa Cruz, California and ideas (or I.D.E.A.S.S. as they call them) are fermenting.  Founded four years ago and lasting an school entire year, Impact Designs: Engineering and Sustainability through Student Service (I.D.E.A.S.S.), is taking green technologies into uncharted territory.

Chart seeding  innovation
Image courtesy of hyoin min

It takes a village…

“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand” – Chinese Proverb

The program first links undergrads with community mentors- a mutually beneficial attribute.  Students acquire hands on involvement with green-centric projects that they may not have been able to experience with other internships. On the flip side, community members working with students gain inspiration from these young adults.

I.D.E.A.S.S. goals include:

  1. Design sustainable solutions for the built environment
  2. Build campus and community coalitions to design and launch new sustainability projects
  3. Prepare students to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce
  4. Promote civic engagement within the Monterey Bay community
  5. Increase interaction between academic majors
  6. Broaden participation and retention in STEM fields
  7. Train students to use quantitative reasoning and problem solving skills for sustainable design work
  8. Initiate changes that serve the needs of community

Listed as a capstone course at the university, the program accepts students from any major which in turn fosters diversity.  This trait continues the diversity theme as it is the first minor offered through the college not through a specific degree program.

Solar panels with raspberry juice?

To exhibit program successes, the program recently held “Seeding Innovation” on October 3rd at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center.  I.D.E.A.S.S. students displayed the projects they have been working to both members of the public and local businesses interested in sustainability.  This years’ innovation successes included:

  • Solar panels that use raspberry juice instead of silicon
  • Anaerobic digesters that turn compost into fuel, and
  • Eco-friendly super capacitors capable of charging faster than any other battery on the market.

Past innovations include technologies focused on:

  • Bicycle transit planning
  • Rainwater systems and water rebate outreach
  • Campus energy dashboard and behavior change
  • Game design
  • Green wharf

Planning for our future 

I.D.E.A.S.S. is without question spreading environmental awareness throughout Santa Cruz.  Could these students be the innovators of tomorrow making our future more sustainable?  Only time will tell, but I have an idea that they just might be – or maybe that’s I.D.E.A.S.S.

Feature image courtesy of Thomas Hawk 

By Tori Wilson

Victoria (Tori) Wilson currently works at her home state's EPA. She graduated from the University of Dayton with a degree in Chemical Engineering and a minor in Environmental Engineering. Tori’s favorite activities include volleyball, 3D puzzles, reading, journaling, trying out new plant based whole food dish ideas, coloring, watching comedy or action movies, and hiking. She just welcomed a new puppy into her life as well!