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Recent News

Lance Lunker making announcement

Helping Wounded Vets

Oct 5, 2018

Lance Iunker announcing challenges

Lance Iunker, West Coast program manager for the Quality of Life Plus lab, announces this year’s challenges. Read full story.

Continue reading Helping Wounded Vets...
Cal Poly graduate Jon Monett

Up to the Challenge

Oct 5, 2018

Jon Monett

Cal Poly graduate, Jon Monett, established the QL+ program at his alma mater in 2009. Read full story.

Continue reading Up to the Challenge...
Students at EPIC Summer Camp

An EPIC Cal Poly Summer Camp

Aug 28, 2018


Middle school and high school students interested in engineering are getting a close-up look at what it would be like to study at Cal Poly through EPIC (Engineering Possibilities in College), a series of four week-long camps held on campus.

Middle school and high school students interested in engineering are getting a close-up look at what it would be like to study at Cal Poly through EPIC (Engineering Possibilities in College), a series of four week-long camps held on campus.

EPIC, taught by Cal Poly professors, students, alumni and industry professionals, began in 2007 with 20 female middle and high school students. Today it welcomes over 640 participants, who experience Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing approach early.

While the program seeks to encourage female, first-generation and low-income students to become engineers, the camp is open to all students. Last week middle school students programmed games, built models of the heart, constructed robots, and tested water samples, among other things.

The next three weeks, EPIC will host high school students.

Check out our photo gallery featuring middle schoolers from around the state getting hands-on engineering experience:

Austin Rivera

Continue reading An EPIC Cal Poly Summer Camp...
HaptX glove, designedby a SLO startup

Getting a Feel for Virtual Reality

Aug 28, 2018

Bob Crockett at Good Morning SLO

Bob Crockett shows his company’s virtual reality glove to a crowd of 300 people at a recent Good Morning SLO, hosted by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce.

When you pull a virtual reality headset over your eyes, you can find yourself immersed in a place that isn’t really there, Bob Crockett told a sold-out crowd at Good Morning SLO recently.

“The first time you don one of these headsets, it’s amazing,” said Crockett, who chairs the Biomedical Engineering Department.

But, he added, the novelty of being on a virtual Mars or in a virtual aquarium wears off unless you can also feel the experience.

The company he co-founded, however, is working to change that. HaptX, a San Luis Obispo tech startup, is making virtual reality more real by allowing users to “touch” what they see.

Their HaptX gloves, as explained in this story, interfaces with virtual reality and uses precise motion tracking, along with 100 points of input on the glove, to provide tactile feedback in conjunction with what is visually portrayed in a VR headset.

Billed by the company as the “world’s only haptic wearable,” a HaptX glove will allow you to do more than just see a virtual cup of coffee.

“It stops your hand from going through a coffee cup that isn’t there,” Crockett said. “So when you interact with things you see in this headset, it feels like you’re touching them.”

HaptX glove

The HaptX glove, designed by a San Luis Obispo startup, allows virtual reality users to also experience a sense of touch.

The company’s origins date back to 2012, when CEO Jake Rubin took his idea to Crockett. While Rubin is in Seattle, where much of the early investment originated, the company ultimately kept operations in San Luis Obispo, where it now employs around 30 engineers, most from Cal Poly.

Aided by $9 million in investment money, the company has already generated a buzz, with recent stories in Forbes, PC Gamer and Wired. Meanwhile, HaptX just shifted from making prototypes to commercialization, and over 100 Fortune 500 companies have signed up for access, Crockett said.

“We’re directed squarely at the enterprise market – the companies that want to use this for training,” Crockett said, noting that local firefighters have participated in demonstrations for industrial training.

“And this is just the first step,” he said, holding up one of the gloves. “It goes from beyond just hands -- to a whole body.”

Michael Whitt demonstrates the SmartCuff with Tamiko Saldin, a graduate biomedical engineering student from El Segundo.

The Battle Against Cardiovascular Disease

Aug 14, 2013

Michael Whitt teaching student Tamiko Saldin

Michael Whitt demonstrates the SmartCuff with Tamiko Saldin, a graduate biomedical engineering student from El Segundo.

When he began working on his dissertation, Michael Whitt had never heard the words “endothelial dysfunction.” But a chance meeting with a renowned cardiovascular expert would cause him to spend the next 20 years thinking about it.

“It’s the most significant predictor of a major adverse cardiovascular event,” said Whitt, who teaches in the biomedical engineering department.

Now Whitt and his company, Cordex Systems, hope to bring his device measuring endothelial dysfunction to the market after government testing occurs this summer.

“It’s going to help a lot of people,” Whitt said.

The origins for the device, trademarked as SmartCuff, date back to Whitt’s days as a bioengineering student at Rutgers. His graduate advisor had the initial concept for a device that would measure arterial compliance, or how much volume changes given a measured pressure.

“I took the concept and made it accurate,” Whitt said.

At the time, he didn’t consider any clinical use for it. But while Whitt was working at Eili Lily and Company, John Cooke, then the associate director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, spoke at the pharmaceutical giant and asked Whitt about his dissertation.

“He said, ‘This isn’t just an engineering exercise,’” Whitt remembered. “’There’s no tool that measures endothelial dysfunction. This could do it.’”

That revelation would shift the focus of Whitt’s work. But pursuing the device would take time due to other career opportunities.

Five years after earning his doctorate in bioengineering, Whitt took a detour, pursuing a masters degree in business from UCLA – while commuting weekly from Indiana, where he simultaneously taught at Purdue.

“I flew to L.A. after I taught two courses on Thursday morning . . . and I flew back on the Saturday redeye or Sunday,” he said.

There he met Kathy Magliato, a heart surgeon, who was also pursuing an MBA. He and Magliato formed Cordex Systems in 2009 to develop the device. But then Whitt was hired to chair the engineering department at Miami Dade College in Florida, and after that, he was invited to teach statistics at the University of Notre Dame.

Now an assistant professor at Cal Poly, he and his partners are finally getting closer to bringing that device to the market.

Cordex investors have raised $5 million. Meanwhile, Cordex is currently preparing for FDA submission while also exploring the use of the device as a companion diagnostic for a pharmaceutical company, which would use the device to assess the effectiveness of their drugs.

Once approved, Whitt said, the device would be easy to use.

“It’s a blood pressure cuff,” he said. “You put it on your arm and press a button.”

While easily applied, the device could have a significant impact. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. And while often treatable, symptoms are frequently undetected. Cardiovascular disease is especially threatening to women, accounting for 1 in 3 deaths each year and one fatality every 80 seconds, according to the American Heart Association.

“It is both humbling and tragic that in the time it takes me to compose this note of gratitude, at least twenty women will die of cardiovascular disease in the US – a disease that is 80-90% preventable,” Magliato told PRWeb. “It is this singular fact that drives us at Cordex to create technology to address the health needs of women and men with a device to detect the earliest signs of heart disease.”

Despite the long journey, Whitt said, the prospect of saving lives has been motivating.

“That’s what kept me going,” he said.

Michael Whitt teaching student Tamiko Saldin

Whitt comes from a line of problem solvers. His father was a physicist, and his maternal grandfather, the first African-American supervisor with the Springfield, IL, police, became chief of detectives there.

The puzzle Whitt stumbled on to, meanwhile, provides a healthy lesson for students.

“I tell them not to minimize what they have to contribute,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t know what they have.”

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