UC Sprouts

Adriana Gomez, UC Sprouts Program & Graphic Design Intern


The vision of the UC Sprouts program is to provide quality supplemental STEM education to elementary students in the Merced community by developing and executing a curriculum that will allow them to plant and tend to an edible garden. During the early developmental phases, CITRIS has supported this initiative by providing the initial funding needed to purchase the necessary resources. Elementary students will get the chance to learn about plant development, nutritious eating, the importance of recycling and composting, and learn about going to college from other UC Merced students.

California’s Central Valley is one of the most important agricultural hubs in the world; meanwhile, the region experiences a continuous brain-drained as talented youth, college graduates and professionals pursue career opportunities outside of the valley. This disconnect between higher education and our local communities has decreased the rate of environmental literacy in Merced County. According to the Nation’s Report Card, 66% of 4th graders are scoring basic or below proficient in reading and a respective 59% in mathematics throughout the U.S. From these statistics, we can extrapolate that environmental literacy education has been overlooked. This is a serious problem that jeopardizes the future of our natural resources nationally.

Meanwhile, UC Merced has established itself as a leader in environmental sustainability and energy efficiency in an area that is heavily dependent on the preservation of our natural ecosystem for economic success. With a multitude of programs available to those interested in Earth Sciences, there are many opportunities for students- and by extension, the community – to discover the beauty of preserving and maintain the resources which are an essential component to California’s vitality.

“Internet of Insecure Things” VLAB Event and Cyber Awareness Day

Steven Dinh, Project Management & Information Security Awareness Intern


The purpose and goal of hosting a VLAB event & Cyber Awareness Day is to ultimately inform the community on security related issues within a technology-impacted environment. Cyber Awareness Day provides opportunities for the community to increase their knowledge on information security within data intensive organizations as well as connecting educational leaders with industry professionals. Similar to Cyber Awareness Day, the “Internet of Insecure Things” VLAB event focuses on a panel discussion that addresses Wi-Fi enabled devices and how startups are competing against large corporations in the cyber security realm.

Furthermore, the budget and agenda for Cyber Awareness Day has been completed by Steven and approved by CITRIS leadership. We are currently in the process of working with external sponsors to solidify additional details as well as finalizing the official event date. In addition, all of the logistics for the “Internet of Insecure Things” VLAB event has been finalized. Several CITRIS interns will be attending this event on February 21st to educate themselves on an important topic as well as expanding their network.

Notable Accomplishments

At the 2016 Mobile App Challenge Semi-Finals, Steven got the chance to meet David Needham, the Vice President of Technology at Oportun. After demonstrating his academic excellence in business and passion for technology, Steven was offered an internship at Oportun within their cyber security department. He spent the entire summer at Oportun’s headquarters, located in the Silicon Valley, working on financial and data analysis. By the end of the summer, he was given the opportunity to continue his internship by joining the Information Technology team as a remote intern.

Entering his final year at the University of California Merced, Steven continues to exceed standards given by CITRIS Leadership. Upon graduation, he has already secured a full-time job offer at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, located in the Silicon Valley, as their Multi-Functional Finance Analyst. We expect great things from Steven after his undergraduate career and we hope that he continues to strive for excellence in his future endeavors.


Deo Halili, Product Manager


Deo Halili is a 4th year Computer Science & Engineering major at UC Merced. He has been working at CITRIS for the past two years as: previously the Outreach Lead for Mobile App Challenge (MAC) and currently as the Product Manager for all CITRIS development initiatives.

His involvement with MAC, through CITRIS, gave him the opportunity to work directly with Oportun, who later offered him a summer internship as well as a remote position during the following semester. CITRIS also has sponsored the event he founded, HackMerced, for the past two years. He is currently working directly with the Chancellor's office on a project assigned to CITRIS from Chancellor Leland.

CCEV:Constant Current Electric Vehicle

Johnathan Deas Electric Vehicle Intern


Johnathan Deas is the electric vehicle intern for CITRIS at the University of California, Merced. His duties include developing a dynamic stator control system for use in what could become a potentially more efficient electric motor. The intention is to allow more constant usage of current in order to extend the life of current battery technologies. While this project is currently in its early stages, much of the groundwork has been made in creating a state-space model. The intended goal of this project is to create a detailed mathematical model of this motor and control system.

Some of Johnathan’s previous projects within CITRIS include research in tire sensing, materials, and connected car technologies. He had also participated and assisted in the organization of the VLAB “Future of Transportation” event. This event consisted of representatives from Uber, Airbus, Terrafugia and Natilus discussing technologies that can facilitate change in the automotive industry. This event included discussions of more advanced drone technologies, autonomous vehicle technologies, as well as potential FAA regulation regarding these new types of vehicles.

6th Annual Mobile App Challenge

Myka Alejandre, Mobile App Challenge Project Coordinator



The Mobile App Challenge is a semester long competition in which interdisciplinary teams of students from the University of California, Merced develop mobile apps that have a positive impact on communities.


By the end of the Mobile App Challenge, teams will have gone through the design process to deliver a completed app and business plan. For teams that wish to continue developing or marketing their apps, CITRIS collaborates with the UC Merced Venture Lab to help the team grow their business. Current Progress Currently, the 6th Annual Mobile App Challenge is underway. All mobile app ideas have been submitted by student teams to the Mobile App Challenge website. Every two weeks, a workshop is held to assist participants in the design process, so that students have the resources and feedback to continually refine their aps into apps that are beneficial and useful.

CITRIS Involvement
CITRIS reaches out to industry leaders to sponsor and fund the prizes awarded for the Mobile App Challenge. Students are given the opportunity to network with sponsors at CITRIS hosted events, and are offered assistance with their mobile apps throughout the semester by CITRIS staff.
  • In 2016, the Mobile App Challenge attained the highest rate of participation by 206%. More than 95 participants with over 20 mobile app ideas presented at the Mobile App Challenge Semi-Finals.
  • Many students that participate in the Mobile App Challenge are offered internships from our sponsors. One team got offered summer internships at PG&E for creating an app called UpNote, an app that helps students to study for their classes.
  • In 2015, the winner of the Mobile App Challenge was Switch, a universal home-operating system can control a user’s home appliances. Switch continues to promote energy conservation with their new business, Sweep Energy, that develops energy-monitoring equipment to predict equipment failure before it occurs and won the 2016 San Joaquin Entrepreneurial Challenge.



Shubham Naik , Lead Application Developer


Shubham Naik is a 2nd year Computer Science & Engineering major at UC Merced. He’s recently joined CITRIS as the lead application developer for the Office of the Chancellor’s project. Project “CatFlux” is a native application, developed in both iOS and Android to replace Happenings as well as centralize all event platforms on campus including but not limited Astra and Catlife. He has designed and programmed both applications, as well as an administrator web interface.

Pirelli Project

Sophie Vo , Technology & Innovation Intern


In light of the rapidly-evolving trends in automotive vehicle technology, CITRIS at UC Merced has engaged itself to produce a report on what the future of transport technology will look like. The Pirelli Project concerns the outlook for fleets, ride sharing, autonomous vehicles, connected cars, and sensing capabilities. Interns on this project are pooling research from patents, publications, and our own interviews with stakeholders in the industry. In the fall, interns also volunteered on VLAB's Future of Transportation team to help coordinate and execute a panel event on flying cars and pilotless drones– here, we were able to hear from and interface with individuals on the forefront of transportation innovation. This semester, our team looks forward to building on our December Midpoint Report and completing our deep dives into the aforementioned topic areas.

Future of Ownership

Winnie Chen, Data Ownership Research Intern


The current construct of our society consists heavily of a rising trend known as the “sharing economy”. This type of sharing ranges from personal information, to vehicles, to property, and we contribute to it daily by simply existing. When data is acquired without our knowledge, our identity becomes less personal, and more accessible. This poses a threat to the public because of the negative consequences associated with it.

In order to understand the future concerns of this trend, CITRIS has created a project that will hopefully bring forth knowledge regarding this potential harm. The main purpose of this project is to examine the current state of ownership, which would allow us to make predictions about the future, and possibly create the incentive to change. As more research is conducted, there seems to be a connection between loss of ownership to decrease of wealth, an important correlation that should not be ignored. For these reasons, CITRIS believes it is unavoidable issue that we must delve further into. The project hopes to create a strong argument for a need of technological ownership management.

CITRIS has provided many resources to help this project grow. Some of these resources include, but not limited to, direct support for the intern, connections to faculty members with expert insight to the topic, and networking opportunities that allow for expansion of knowledge for the project.