Meet the Spring 2024 Innovation Grant Catalysts

March 27, 2024 | 3:34 pm

The semesterly Jacobs Institute Innovation Catalysts grant program supports Berkeley’s student innovators in advancing their projects. Since Spring 2018, this awards program has supported 127 projects and over 300 Berkeley students with financial commitments, makerspace access, and staff support to make headway developing concepts and prototypes.

This Spring24 cohort includes eight projects and twenty students, with five groups receiving an our Ignite grant ($2000), and three additional teams receiving our Spark grant, ($500) for initial-stage project concepts. This term’s participants include students from undergraduate, master’s, and PhD programs.

Throughout the semester, the grant recipients have been developing their projects, benefiting from financial support and guidance through Jacobs Hall and the CITRIS Invention Lab. Each winner has been granted a Maker Pass, granting full access to our Makerspace facilities, alongside continuous mentorship from our Student Advisory Board, Jacobs Technical Staff, Design Fellows, among others.

Congratulations to our Spring 2024 Innovation Catalysts grant recipients! Winners of the Ignite and Spark Grants will showcase their projects and accomplishments during the Spring Jacobs Design Showcase, scheduled for May 1-2, 2024.

Discover more about the individual projects below:


TenniBot: Jerry Tang (Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering ‘25), Daisy Zhang (Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering ‘26)
The TenniBot is an innovative solution designed to autonomously collect tennis balls on courts, aiming to maximize training time and efficiency for players and coaches. This project addresses the tedious and time-consuming task of ball collection, enhancing the training experience and allowing athletes to focus on improving their skills. By automating this process, the TenniBot promotes inclusivity and accessibility in sports, ensuring that players of all backgrounds have more time to dedicate to their development.

SCAN, Smart Construction with Aerial Navigation: Qi Zheng (Ph.D. Civil and Environmental Engineering ‘25), Stuart McElhany (Ph.D. Chemical Engineering ‘26), Elliot Hong (B.S. Mechanical Engineering ‘25), Atreya Petluri (B.S. Materials Science and Engineering ‘26), Qiutong Jin (Ph.D. Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences ‘25)
Robotics-based technologies have advanced significantly in building constructions, enhancing productivity and safety. In this context, we introduce an innovative approach called SCAN (Smart Construction with Aerial Navigation) for additive manufacturing. Our proposal involves the development of a multi-robot framework integrating 3D printing building robots with versatile ScanDrones. This integration aims to enable real-time measurement and monitoring of manufacturing accuracy and geometry integrity, contributing to improved overall construction processes.

Origami inspired deployable mobile Primary Health Center for low resource settings: Md Haseen Akhtar (Ph.D. Design ‘24), Kirk Mendoza (MDes ‘24)
The objective of the Proposal is to design and develop novel solutions for a mobile clinic completely transportable as backpacks to far flung regions to provide key healthcare services inspired by the ancient art of origami. It is a shelter acting as a clinic for doctors as nurses along with required furniture, equipment and ancillary items to run an Out patient department for a few hours in rural regions of developing nations. The objective is to make the entire outer structure and interior items as collapsible, foldable, lightweight and affordable so that it can be transported easily as a backpack, collapsed and carried back to the base, and a product which could be scaled from a village scale to a nationwide novel healthcare delivery model which provided affordable healthcare services to the underserved population at their doorstep with minimal or no cost.


Digital GRiD: Ratih Ayu Apsari (Ph.D. in Education ‘27), Yangyang Yang (Ph.D. in Information Management and Systems ‘26)

Digital GRiD is a digital grid designed to bridge the discourse of mathematics and dance. It is developed from a tarp-floor-gridded that has been developed for one year and tested for fifth grader students (9-12 years old) in Bali, Indonesia and Berkeley, US. Students attend to, and foreground, particular lines on the mat in order to coordinate their dance movements. 

COVID Aggregates: Chengyao Liang (Ph.D. Civil and Environmental Engineering ‘25), Nam Nguyen (B.S. Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering ‘25)
Self-healing concrete is being widely recognized as a remedial technique to improve the durability of concrete. This project presents an innovative self-healing approach inspired by the structure of the COVID virus, striving for a robust, swift, and active crack repair technique. Utilizing advanced 3D printing techniques, these aggregates can be precisely manufactured, providing notable advantages in macro-scale crack healing and surpassing alternative methods.

Open Source Picosatellite Prototype Platform: Marvin Lin (B.S. EECS ‘26)
An open source platform demonstrating the feasibility of a low-cost, low-power picosatellites to increase hobbyist and student accessibility to space research and education. These picosatellites could also allow for unique miniaturized interplanetary missions to be conducted. This project hopes to eventually bring picosatellites to the masses at Berkeley through a hands-on “Satellite in a Semester” DeCal.

Chromatic Movement: Hila Mor (Ph.D. EECS ‘28), Pujita Tangirala (B.A. Computer Science ‘26), Catherine Davodi (B.A. Computer Science ‘27), Raphael David Condor (B.S. Bioengineering ‘25)
A fabrication setup and design experiments for developing an interactive color-changing garment that responds to body movements by changing its hue. 

Coffee Kimono: Gia Kirk (MDes ‘24), Abigail Chen (MDes ‘24)
Coffee Kimono is a plantable coffee kimono: a kimono jacket utilizing coffee grounds as its main material and embedded with seeds that users can plant at the end of its life cycle. The kimono will be fully biodegradable, repurposing waste from coffee production. Wearers are encouraged to throw their jacket into their backyard at the end of its life cycle by planting the seeds, watering them, and watching the wildflowers grow.

We applaud the remarkable creativity and dedication of this new cohort of Innovation Catalysts. Their groundbreaking projects are set to make a lasting impact in diverse fields, from consumer products to assistive technology, research, education, and beyond. 

To stay up-to-date on our Innovation Catalysts’ project highlights and milestones, follow us on Instagram at @jacobsdesigncal, and attend the Jacobs Spring Design Showcase on May 1st & 2nd.

Do you have an idea you’d like to develop?  Apply for a Fall 2024 INNOVATION CATALYST GRANT!  Applications open soon—check the program home page for details and how to apply.