ECE Alumni Day

Ten interdisciplinary teams from the electrical engineering and cognitive science departments presented prototypes of innovative products designed to improve the lives of senior citizens on Saturday, June 10 to an audience of University of California San Diego, Electrical and Computer Engineering alumni and members of the La Costa Glen senior retirement community and UC San Diego Retirees Association.

Team Kiwi took first place for its alert system installment for walkers, created for seniors who want to stay active. This so-called attention companion has three alert options - audio, vibrational, and LED - and can detect any change in any elevation or any cracks in the road. When in a crowded room, the vibrational motors in the walker handles can notify you of an obstacle. At night, the LED lights can guide you to your path.  

Gulmira Mustapaeva, a senior electrical engineering major, was a member of Team Kiwi. She was inspired by her own father’s life to get involved with the ECE Design Competition. He had a stroke in his fifties and has had to use a walker in his own life.

“I want to make my own dad feel more independent,” Mustapaeva said.

For both Mustapaeva and Eric Waters of SmartSole, the second place team, interacting with the La Costa Glen folks was the most rewarding part of the process.

“I realized that seniors are an underserved community,” said Waters. “They needed someone to listen to their problems and address them.”

Waters, an electrical engineering senior, and his team developed an integrated shoe insole that monitors gait. Using the device, doctors can more easily evaluate and diagnose walking problems. 

The insole has nine data collection sensors embedded that interface with a data collection unit. The unit connects via Bluetooth to a machine-learning program that depicts the person’s walking pattern.

This was the second ECE annual design competition and serves as an important application of design thinking and engineering skills to a large population of senior citizens.

According to Cathy Geiler, a member of the La Costa Glen advisory board, “Engineers make things work, but it takes a whole team to make these kinds of event work - and that’s from a teacher.”


For more information on the Design Competition Showcase and participating teams, check out the web page here.