Innovation

When Cal’s Human-Powered Vehicle Snapped in Two, Nobody Expected How it Would End

Things were looking bleak for the UC Berkeley Human Powered Vehicle Team last weekend, and the timing couldn’t have been worse.

The team, all engineering majors, were on the verge of their big competition: the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Human Powered Vehicle Competition West, in Santa Clara. Rider Andrew Taylor had just started his practice run on Saturday morning when Reuben, the state-of-the-art vehicle that he and his cohorts had spent seven months building, crashed on the first lap.

‘Academies-in-a-Box’ Are Thriving—But Are They the Best Way to School the World’s Poor?

An estimated 2.5 billion people on the planet live on less than $2 a day. Is it possible to give the younger ones a high-quality private education?

One company says yes. Bridge International Academies, a for-profit franchise of private schools founded in 2007 in Kenya, is trying to transform “knowledge for all” into a cost-effective reality. Its answer: the “academy-in-a-box.”

In on the Ground Floor: Would My Investment in a Friend’s Scheme Really Seal My Fortune?

Graduation was near and other seniors were scrambling for work. I knew I was set. I had met a brilliant entrepreneur and was investing my time and savings in his sure-fire venture that guaranteed me both a job and untold millions.

His plan was literally airtight: Create a device that would improve upon the highest volume manufactured product—the sealed bags used for everything from dry macaroni to potato chips.

And what was wrong with those bags? They weren’t re-sealable.

From the Spring 2014 Branding issue of California.

Welcome to iTown: Berkeley Designer Imagines What If Silicon Valley Housed All Its Employees

Alfred Twu says he got inspired by a friend who, after taking a job at a major tech firm in the South Bay, decided to save on rent by living out of his van in the company parking lot.

“The company had showers and food, so all he needed was a place to sleep,” says Twu, a designer who works for Berkeley Student Cooperative. “He would wake up in the morning and notice all the other vans in the parking lot like his.”

Drivin’ on Sunshine: Cal Team Is Crafting Solar-Powered Car for National Race

As flocks of wild turkeys and geese look on, about 50 members of the UC Berkeley Solar Vehicle Team—aka CalSol—are laboring from dawn to dusk every day at the Richmond Field Station, a 152-acre lot six miles northwest of campus. Their goal: the construction of “Zephyr,” a solar-powered car that can cruise along at 55 miles per hour on only the energy needed for a portable hairdryer.

It’s Cal’s latest entry in an international collegiate competition that has been going on since the early 1990s, before many of CalSol’s current members were born.

Feeding Forward: Giving Us the Power to Fight Hunger From Our Phones

Time has borne out the veracity of the Biblical observation that poor will always be with us—and so, too, are well-meaning efforts to feed the famished. But success in getting food to the hungry has been spotty at best. Now, a group of idealistic Cal students is bringing high tech to bear on the problem, producing an approach that is propagating across the country.

Gadzooks, MOOCs!

“I’ve been rereading Christensen a lot,” says Armando Fox. The Berkeley computer science professor is referring to business guru Clayton Christensen, famous for his research on how innovations can unsettle existing institutions. For example, how the PC upended the market for mainframes, or how the new business and publishing dynamics of the Internet have thrown traditional media companies into turmoil. Now Christensen warns that higher education will face its own disruption in the form of online learning.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Riding the iBomb: Welcome to Life in the Age of Exploding Information

The Acxiom Corporation has me down as Arab.

Acxiom is a commercial data broker based in Little Rock, Arkansas, a Big Data company that builds consumer profiles by aggregating information from various public and consumer databases. It then packages and sells that information to marketers who want to more accurately target ads to consumers. One of Acxiom’s slogans is “Stop Guessing. Start Knowing.”

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

Metal Machine Music

From autoworkers to telephone operators, many employees have lost their jobs to robots. Could session musicians be next? It’s more likely than you might think. A trio of Berkeley researchers is developing computer programs that can hold their own with the best jazz artists.

From the Winter 2013 Information Issue issue of California.

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