On a Tuesday evening in USC’s Ronald Tutor Hall, several suit-and-tie clad undergraduates gathered in the Ming Hsieh Board Room, chatting
Students give their final presentations for USC's X PRIZE class.
An interdisciplinary class for students at USC Viterbi and USC Marshall School of Business, the class examines a different topic each year, with this year’s students asked to investigate problems related the aging and failing infrastructure in urban areas, and to develop X PRIZE-like challenges. Presentations included research that tackled soil remediation for sustainable urban environments, new materials for improving roads and sustainable city water systems.
The program opened with one of the students delivering a fitting rendition of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” leading into a presentation entitled “Making Roads Work.” The poem cleverly set the tone for his team’s research into developing sustainable and durable road surfaces without reducing driving efficiency.
The next presentation sought remediation for urban environments via decontaminating lead deposits pollution in soil. Students presented research on contaminated soil in Prague and Beijing, and instances of lead poisoning in Detroit-area children, before suggesting the development of a lead extraction system that would use “biological components” to reduce surface lead deposits as well as extraction costs.
The last presentation sought to develop a decentralized water-treatment system that decreases on-site consumption in urban areas. Students on this team investigated global water shortage and offered the solutions of more efficient water fixtures and the improvement of water treatment plants that are inefficiently located outside of the cities they serve.
Guest judges evaluate X PRIZE class presentations.
USC’s X PRIZE class is co-lead by Jonathan Lasch, executive director of the Alfred E. Mann Institute and USC Viterbi research professor, and Gene Miller, executive director of USC Marshall’s Greif Center for Entrepreneurship. Both work to make the class interdisciplinary, encouraging students to use business fundamentals to meet engineering innovation. In turn, students learn about efficient evaluation of current issues, venture development and distribution operations, while sharpening analytical and critical thinking and oral and written communication skills. During the semester, students also enjoyed guest speakers, including Eric Shen, the Director of Transportation Planning for the Port of Long Beach, and Thomas Leary, Jr., USC’s Vice President of Capital Construction and Facilities Management. The class culminated in the delivered presentations on April 24th.
Next year the class will focus on the NAE Grand Challenge to advance health informatics.