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Student Research Projects Get a $60,000 Boost from Baker and Koob Endowments

A student in a blue smock and safety glasses uses a pipet to transfer liquid into a flask in a biomedical engineering lab
Written By Keegan Koberl

Cal Poly has awarded more than $60,000 to support 17 student research projects through the university’s Baker/Koob endowments, which support hands-on, project-based learning opportunities for individual students and groups.

Student projects are focused on issues including STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education, agricultural sciences, climate change and its effects on local environments.

Nikki Arm, a master’s student in mechanical engineering from Carlsbad, California, received funding from the endowments over the past two years to support her thesis project designing, building and testing a deep ocean vehicle lander. Arm began her work on the lander during a summer internship with Global Ocean Design. At the end of the internship, Arm was able to bring the lander to Cal Poly to continue her work on the project. 

Master's student Nikki Arm stands next to the lander she developed.
Master's student Nikki Arm with her lander.

Working with faculty members Andrew Davol of the Mechanical Engineering Department and Crow White of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences, Arm set project goals in both fields. The first is to improve a key component of the deep-sea lander by designing and utilizing composite pressure spheres to enable cost-effective, deeper submersion. The composite pressure sphere will be engineered, prototyped and physically tested to determine the design’s efficacy. The second goal is to utilize the current lander to optimize sampling techniques in preparation for a multiyear before-and-after controlled impact study on the wind farm being constructed off the coast of Morro Bay.

“I love the ocean and love engineering, so this project has been an excellent opportunity to practice interdisciplinary research and work and focus on something I’m so passionate about,” Arm said. “I hope the lander can be used to advance marine research and our understanding of the ocean.”

Arm hopes to stay involved with the project following graduation from Cal Poly. She plans to continue her work in ocean research and has set a goal to be the first woman to build her own submarine that will take her to the bottom of Mariana Trench, the deepest oceanic trench on Earth.

Funding for these projects comes from the Warren J. Baker Endowment for Excellence in Project-Based Learning and the Robert D. Koob Endowment for Student Success. Because of the endowments’ similar purpose, distributions of the two endowments are pooled and used to fund multiple student projects via a competitive process.

Funds may be used for, but are not limited to, student support; student and faculty travel; student and faculty expenses associated with participation in student research; group projects; conferences; competitions; and equipment and materials related to student research.

A full list of the awarded projects is available on the Office of the Provost website.

Lead photo: A graduate student conducts experiments in a biomedical engineering lab. Photo by Joe Johnston.

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