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Passionate ESL students revamp water conservation kiosk

November 18, 2015

A team of dedicated students is developing an information kiosk that teaches the San Joaquin community about the importance of water conservation.

Dr. Thomas C. Harmon, professor in the School of Engineering, and his team of students have dedicated the Fall 2015 semester to preparing the San Joaquin River Kiosk, which has been two years in the making, for public use.

The kiosk serves as an easy-to-use interface for those visiting the San Joaquin River to learn more about it and ways they can conserve water. It contains slides full of information regarding drought, salmon cycles, and four other aspects of the San Joaquin River that are affected by the lack of water conservation. The kiosk also contains games in which the user is tested on the ways they can conserve water and help protect the San Joaquin River and spread awareness.

The team is led by Sang Sue Thao, a fourth year Earth Systems Science major. His inspiration for working on this project was to help restore the river. “I’m a green guy. I also have a background in agriculture so the project made sense.”

The rest of the team is comprised of 11 fourth and fifth year students each with their own reasons for working on this project. Take Patrick Chuchu for example. He is a fifth year mechanical engineering major and the team's lead hardware specialist. Chuchu comes from Kenya, a land where water is scarce.

“Through this project I am gathering information to conserve water and use the information back home and spread awareness,” explained Chuchu when asked about his inspiration for working on the project.

Then there is Abbigail Abbellana, the team's communications officer and a first year computer science and engineering major. Her inspiration for working on the kiosk stems from her high school experience in conservation.

She stated, “I was part of my high school’s green academy. I also want to further develop my experience and knowledge in water conservation.”

For the most part, the team’s unified inspiration for working on this project is brining awareness and educating people on the importance of water conservation.

“The San Joaquin River is a poster child for water conservation,” explained Dr. Harmon. “I knew [UC Merced] could compete in this area so I decided to pursue this project.” He also stated that it is important to “align research with teaching so that the experience is much more fulfilling.”

This project is part of the Engineering Service Learning course at UC Merced.  In Engineering Service Learning, students gain the opportunity to work on real-world projects that solve challenges faced by local non-profit organizations. Since 2004, Engineering Service Learning students from different majors are put into teams in which they can develop professional, technical and leadership skills while fulfilling the needs the aforementioned non-profit organizations.

The kiosk is set to be implemented by December of 2015. For more information, visit