Hack Davis group photo

Giving a Hand to Hands-on Engineering

Giving students hands-on learning experiences has been a pillar of the College of Engineering for decades. Thanks to support from donors from the 2022 Give Day, it is sure to continue for decades to come.

Give Day is a 29-hour online fundraiser held every year in conjunction with UC Davis Picnic Day. This past Give Day the university raised a record-breaking $4.1 million from more than 5,000 gifts to support colleges and departments across the university.

Since then, the College of Engineering’s eight departments and several student groups have been applying the $144,664 they raised during Give Day to support student engagement in hands-on research.

Engineering for Social Good

An example of this is HackDavis. HackDavis is a collegiate-level hack-a-thon that connects UC Davis students with hands-on technology experience through building impactful technological projects for social good. The club develops projects for organizations and nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity, the Children’s Scoliosis Foundation and Breathe California. The students also provide technology support to campus initiatives and departments, such as The Pantry and UC Davis Athletics. For athletics, HackDavis created a new app that allows Aggie fans to earn points for attending games and even get prizes.

Meeting the Challenge

A key component of Give Day are the various philanthropic challenges donors are asked to meet. 

Similar to matching gifts, a Give Day Challenge is established by a donor to seek a certain number of donors to a department, club or fund. Once the challenge is met, the donor’s gift is activated. From this Give Day Challenge, nearly $13,000 was raised for HackDavis. HackDavis was one of several Give Day Challenges sponsored by the Dean’s Executive Committee–a group of executive-level leaders, including venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs, who work closely with the College of Engineering in an advisory role.

“Those extra Give Day funds unlock many opportunities,” said Vivek Shome, HackDavis co-president and a fourth-year, double major in computer science and applied math. “A huge thank you to the donors. Without your support, none of the events would be possible. Even the smallest dollars can pay for hours and hours of infrastructure and security.”

The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which won the College of Engineering’s Battle of the Departments for most gifts and most money raised for the third year in a row, will dedicate the $29,851 it raised to renovate and equip its instructional labs with upgraded computers, increased lab bench space and electronic test equipment.

“As technology rapidly advances, we must maintain labs with the most up-to-date equipment so that we can prepare our students to lead the industry through hands-on experience with cutting-edge technology,” said André Knoesen, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “These gifts will enable us to make critical upgrades, such as to our lab benches and electronic testing equipment.”

The department plans to purchase educational devices for loan to students who are unable to afford the devices required to complete classwork and conduct research. It also helped students in need to acquire the necessary textbooks before their first day of class. 

Updating Labs

Electrical and Computer Engineering wasn’t the only department to pursue updating its labs with Give Day funds.

A challenge gift from Bob Howe ʼ68 and Mary Dexheimer is allowing the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering to upgrade its labs and equipment to provide better hands-on experience for the students while funding design projects to provide teamwork, project management and goal-oriented experience for the students. It will also support undergraduate student projects in the capstone design courses, recruitment of underrepresented students to the graduate program, and seminars and lecture series that will expose students to entrepreneurship and innovations.

Giving Students Research Experience

Gifts also went to support giving students in the departments of Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and Department of Chemical Engineering research experience.

BME Advisory Board Member Donald Chigazola ʼ78 and his wife, Deborah, made a challenge gift to support hands-on learning through B-Hours, a program that connects the Department of Biomedical Engineering undergraduate students with working professionals in the community.

Give Day donations made to the Ed and Mary Schroeder Fund are supporting undergraduate students with paid lab experience within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Without this fund, many working students would not be able to participate in undergraduate research experiences due to their need to spend time outside of class in paying work, according to the department.

Gifts Give Students Chance to Present Research, Network

Students from the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering teamed up to organize a cross-department Graduate Research Symposium on September 20, 2022 with funds from Give Day.

The one-day event gathered more than 100 undergraduate and graduate students to showcase their research to one another and to faculty through presentations, panels, sessions and informal networking.

“Part of the goal was to let us take control of it and build up that experience of organizing a big event like that, and also a chance to practice presenting in a less scary setting than in a full-blown conference,” said symposium organizer Nicki O’Shea, a second-year graduate student researching nanoceramics. “It was great to give people the opportunity to meet with each other and learn about their research. A lot of people have said they are looking forward to next year.”

SAVE THE DATE - Give Day 2023

UC Davis and the College of Engineering will celebrate Picnic Day on April 15, 2023. Student clubs and teams, departments and the Dean's Office feature their latest and greatest for alumni and friends on Picnic Day. The annual Give Day, the 29-hour online fundraising drive, will be held on April 14-15.

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This story was featured in the Fall 2022 issue of Engineering Progress.

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