Bioengineering lab

Bioengineering lab

Humanity at its Best

SCU students and faculty will present work highlighting the Frugal Innovation Hub’s many humanitarian projects at the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference.


SCU students and faculty will present work highlighting the Frugal Innovation Hub’s many humanitarian projects at the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference.


Santa Clara University will have a big presence at this year’s IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference. SCU students and faculty will present seven papers highlighting the Frugal Innovation Hub’s many humanitarian projects in progress.

Presenters at the GHTC showcase innovation in technology and methodology to address sociocultural and socioeconomic needs of vulnerable and resource-constrained communities.

Silvia Figueira, director of the Frugal Innovation Hub, is vice chair for the IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference this year. “The students really value the opportunity to use their computing skills to make an impact,” says Figueira. “I couldn’t be prouder of the work they’re doing.”

The papers being presented at the conference range in focus from projects focused on helping specific areas of the world to those that have a more global application. They include:

  • SCAN—Automatizing Libraries in African Villages: Matthew Johnson, Jose Santillan, Michael Walsh, Silvia Figueira

  • Video-Based IoT Baby Monitor for SIDS Prevention: Xiaoting Liu, Kyle Takeuchi, Tokunbo Ogunfunmi, Shivakaumar Mathapathi

  • Extrusion Auger Improvement Project: Aaron Wagner, Maureen O’Neill, Panthea Sepehrband

  • Aquasift: A Low-Cost, Hand-Held Potentiostat for Point-of-Use Electrochemical Detection of Contaminants in Drinking Water: Philip Wu, Gabriela Vazquez, Nicholas Mikstas, Shoba Krishnan, Unyoung (Ashley) Kim

  • Screening Donated Breast Milk in the Developing World: Market Evaluation and Needs Identification for Rapid and Sustainable Methods of Screening Donated Milk at Human Milk Banks: Karen Mac, Nina Morrison, Samantha O’Connor, Taylor Tromburg, Callie Weber, Unyoung (Ashley) Kim, Michele Parker

  • Vital Sensor Kit for Use with Telemedicine in Developing Countries: Alejandra Pacheco, Antonio Maldonado-Liu, Jose Hernandez, Natalie Arrizon, Tokunbo Ogunfunmi, Unyoung (Ashley) Kim

  • Internet-of-Things (IoT)-Enabled Water Quality Testing and Analysis: Tokunbo Ogunfunmi, Shivakaumar Mathapathi

Q&A with Silvia Figueira

We recently sat down with Figueira to find out more about the Frugal Innovation Hub and what she enjoys most about her work.

What is the Frugal Innovation Hub and how was it created?

The Frugal Innovation Hub (FIH) was created to focus on emerging markets. The idea was to develop solutions and/or products that were accessible, affordable, adaptable, and appropriate for impoverished communities in developing countries.

You talk about creating solutions for emerging markets in impoverished communities but what about the poverty and needs right here in the Bay Area?

We initially started the Mobile Lab to develop mobile solutions to help social enterprises operating in other countries. Shortly after seeing the fruits of our labor in other places, it became clear that there was a huge need locally and that we could find unique solutions to those needs. Here in the Bay Area, homeless and very low income people have cellular phones, but lack apps that may make their phones more useful. With this population in mind, the students in the mobile lab started developing systems focused on local needs, and what started as a side project became a huge part of my job.

What's your proudest moment from working in your current role?

The students that work in the FIH are what make me proud. I’m always so surprised by the response I get from the students when I present them with an idea, they all want to participate.

What gets you excited about your job and what inspires you?

What gets me going every day is the opportunity to help the surprisingly large number of local organizations that could use our help. These organizations do an amazing job helping under-served people. They are inspirational, and the fact that we can help them do a better job is really gratifying.


Frugal Engineering: Nina Morrison ’17Samantha O’Connor ’17, and Callie Weber ’17 developed a low-cost paper sensor to detect contaminants in donated breast milk for their senior capstone project. Photo courtesy SCU School of Engineering