Santa Clara University

Frugal Innovation Lab




The Frugal Innovation Lab offers a set of undergraduate engineering courses that weave in business, humanities, and hard technical skill development for students throughout their four years in the SCU engineering school.  Course offerings are continually being developed, as faculty members are eager to participate in the Lab's mission; every quarter at least one course is added, increasing the breadth of the Frugal Innovation Lab's curriculum.  Even students enrolled in courses that are not listed principally beneath the 'FIL' headline are deeply engaged with the Lab for Senior Design projects, Engineering Without Borders, as well as other initiatives.

The aim of curriculum developed in the context of FIL is threefold:

  1. To develop engineering graduates who are able to empathize, define, and design solutions for emerging markets.  Graduates of the future are going to require the development of skills that are directly relevant to addressing the needs of the developing world.  Attaining these skills over the course of an undergraduate career will help to gain and retain employment in high level areas of the domestic and international workforce.
  2. Provide general awareness and knowledge about the contexts in which engineers will be operating increasingly as time goes on.
  3. Increase domestic competitiveness in the context of pursuing universal social justice.

Below is a listing of current undergraduate courses, their brief course descriptions, associated faculty, and syllabi (if available):

ENGR 1 – Introduction to Engineering

Introduction to the different engineering disciplines. Interdisciplinary aspects of engineering. Engineering professionalism, ethics, and civic engagement. Frugal Innovation Lab is one of eight modules during this course.
Co-requisite: ENGR 1L.

1L. Introduction to Engineering Laboratory

Laboratory for ENGR 1, one of which is taught by the Frugal Innovation Lab. Co-requisite: ENGR 1. (1 unit)

COEN 10 Introduction to Programming

Overview of computing. introduction to program design and implementation: problem definition, functional decomposition, and design of algorithm programming in PHP and C: variables, data types, control constructs, arrays, strings, and functions. Program development in the Linux environment: editing, compiling, testing, and de- bugging. Credit is not allowed for more than one introductory class such as COEN 10, COEN 44, CSCI 10, or OMIS 30.
Co-requisite: COEN 10L. (4 units)

10L. Laboratory for COEN 10

Co-requisite: COEN 10. (1 unit)

ENGR 136 – Frugal Innovation Design Projects

Ten core competencies of frugal innovation applied to mobile applications, low-cost diagnostics, frugal habitat, last-mile distribution and micro entrepreneurship. Application of technologies and business models for social benefit. Student projects focus on real world implementations with social enterprises in emerging markets. Junior standing or sophomores with instructor consent.

Global Social Benefit Fellowship (GSBF)

The Global Social Benefit Fellowship provides a comprehensive program of mentored, field-based study and action research for undergraduate juniors within the GSBI™ worldwide network of social entrepreneurs. The fellowship combines a fully funded 6-7 week summer field experience in the developing world with two quarters of academically rigorous research. It is a program of practical social justice, in the Jesuit educational tradition. This is a richly rewarding yet demanding experience, one that requires a time-intensive, nine month commitment. Each fellow will receive a support package to cover all international travel, in-country expenses, research costs, and a modest summer stipend.

Senior Design Projects – All Disciplines

Through a wide range of capstone projects—everything from researching and designing a medical device for removing pulmonary embolisms to improving the energy efficiency of a clothes dryer—students spend their senior year using their knowledge for the betterment of society, putting theory into practice, and working collaboratively across disciplines.

Roelandts Fellowship Program

The Willem P. Roelandts and Maria Constantino-Roelandts Grant Program in Science and Technology for Social Benefit supports projects that are commensurate with the Center's mission, "to understand and enable the innovative application of science and technology for global human benefit." CSTS is pleased to make these research awards, and hopes that these internal grants can help faculty seek additional, extra-mural funds, as well as continue to mentor our student scholars. The Center also encourages the integration of this research with new STS course development and the Values in Science & Technology pathway (also sponsored by CSTS).

Miller Projects

The Jeff and Karen Miller Faculty Fellowships in Frugal Innovation will fund collaborative faculty/student engineering research to address the needs of underserved communities worldwide.

Frugal innovation is a bundle of creative engineering design and social entrepreneurial strategies to address the basic human needs of people in underserved communities worldwide. Frugal innovation develops novel technologies to addresses basic human needs, such as health care, clean water, renewable energy, and sustainable building technologies. It begins with the question: how can we develop and apply novel technologies that underserved communities can afford and use over time to meet basic human needs? Examples of frugal innovation include:

  • Development or application of technology associated with renewable energy with particular interest in provision to communities without access to an electrical grid
  • Development or application mobile instrumentation and applications, particularly those focused on public health, emergency preparedness or response, water resource management, monitoring and evaluation applications, and mobile microfinance.
  • Technology development or adaptation related to public health including mobile health, clean water, health monitoring and evaluation, disease tracking, diagnostic devices, and epidemiological data collection and analysis.

Proposals will be evaluated on the following 8 criteria of frugal innovation: ruggedization, affordability, simplification, adaptation, use of local materials, manufacturing, green technologies, lightweight, and user-centric design. These fellowships are intended to scale up research capacity in frugal innovation at SCU based on these criteria. CSTS intends these fellowships to demonstrate proof of concept for frugal innovation, and to serve as the basis for future extramural funding in these topical areas.

PHSC 190 – Public Health Capstone

"Interdisciplinary exploration of public health strategies for dealing with global health issues, particularly those affecting poor and underserved populations: infectious diseases, access to adequate and safe food and water, and access to health care.

"Public health deals with understanding the multitude of factors influencing human health (biological, social, and environmental), and using this knowledge to develop strategies for prevention of disease and promotion of health through organized efforts and social choices. Focusing on the challenges laid out by the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, this course will use case studies, research projects, and guest speakers to investigate real-world strategies to analyze and improve health, particularly in resource-poor settings.

"We’ll talk about large projects organized at the national or international level by public health experts and governments, and small projects developed at the community level by social entrepreneurs and NGO’s. We won’t be able to address every public health problem facing the world, but we’ll hopefully talk about a diverse enough range of health issues and intervention strategies to identify common themes."

Frugal Habitat – Civil Engineering


Frugal Innovation Lab |  Bannan Labs Building 404
500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053
1-408-554-2334 |