2023-24 CITRIS UC Santa Cruz Tech for Social Good Program's student project teams kick off

The 2023-24 CITRIS Tech for Social Good program at UC Santa Cruz started in January with kick-off meetings with the winning technology development track teams. The program, co-sponsored by the Institute for Social Transformation, supports cross-disciplinary student projects and events focused on exploring technology-based solutions to significant social challenges. Student teams can receive up to $5,000 for research projects and up to $1,000 for events and is open to undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students across all campus disciplines and divisions.

In this year’s program, three innovative teams were selected for the technology development track. 

  • The Mobile App for Interaction with an Electric Tractor project team is developing a mobile application control system for Amiga, a small and adjustable electric tractor used at the UC Santa Cruz CASFS farm. Amiga was developed by Farm-ng to automate manual tasks, receive real-time updates, and minimize maintenance and fuel expenses at farms. The team aims to mitigate challenges currently faced in a more traditional agricultural approach: labor-intensive tasks, time-consuming processes, and excessive use of pesticides resulting in workforce shortage, increased operational costs, unsafe working environments, and reduced efficiency. The mobile device can reduce the physical intensity of farm work, allow two farmers to manage the tractor cooperatively, enhance the tractor’s control and safety, and give farmers the ability to repair and maintain their equipment. The application will also be integrated into organic farming.
  • The Gateways Digital Literacy Classes project team focuses on providing digital design skills to incarcerated people to improve their opportunities as they are reintegrated into society, aiming to reduce recidivism. It also increases community engagement among those currently incarcerated. The project is implemented in two Santa Cruz County facilities. The curriculum covers topics including Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Rush, with integrated personal development and interpersonal communication.
  • The Greener Greenhouses project team is developing an ultra-low power open-source sensor to provide a more affordable, less energy-demanding, and less human intervention-requiring monitoring system for greenhouses. Greenhouses equipped with sensors can use less water, fertilizer, and lighting, increasing crop yield efficiency. The team’s goal is to reduce the financial barrier that greenhouse operators face in adopting “smart agriculture” techniques to minimize resource wastage. Releasing the work as open-source ensures that those needing low-cost agricultural sensing the most can reach the technology.

CITRIS will organize a Student Project Showcase at the end of the Spring semester of 2024, where the three teams will present their progress. The event will be open to anyone interested.

The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute create information technology solutions for society’s most pressing challenges. Established in 2001, the center leverages the interdisciplinary research strengths of multiple Campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners to advance the University of California’s mission and the innovative spirit of California. The institute was created to shorten the pipeline between world-class laboratory research and the development of cutting-edge applications, platforms, companies, and even new industries. Find out more at CITRIS.sites.UC Santa Cruz.edu and CITRIS-UC.org.