Project Areas

S-Lab Projects

S-Lab hosts student and faculty projects that align with the mission statement in research areas focused on urban agriculture, renewable energy and smart power systems, water security, and resource efficiency in the built environment. Please refer to our project library for a list of ongoing and past projects.

The S-Lab is dedicated to providing a space where students can meet, conduct their own research, and develop prototypes while linking them with colleagues and mentors in their field.

If you are interested in joining S-lab to run a project, please fill out the webform: Pitch a Project


Sustainable Food Systems

Off-the-Grid Aquaponics

dsc01335Aquaponics are a type of self-sustaining food production system; in this project, the students aim to create an aquaponics system that relies completely on off-grid power, produces large amounts of healthy organic food, and can be replicated affordably  throughout the world.  This project utilizes media beds equipped with drip irrigation in order to provide our plants directly with aquaponic produced nutrient  solution. Based out of the UCSC Arboretum and S-Lab, this project is student led.

Water Security

Renewably Powered Water Treatment

Our goal is to create a scalable, self-contained water treatment system powered entirely by renewable energy. We will utilize machine learning to optimize system efficiency given the availability of 'must run' power with the aim of being able to grid-tie or run independently as a microgrid. Our design is powered photovoltaic panels, regulated by an onboard microcontroller. Moreover, we will analyze the use of UV LEDs during the sterilization step, a more environmentally friendly UV source than currently in use . Although the system is intended to remove bacterial contaminants, an inline particle filter will remove small particles prior to UV exposure, permitting use as a standalone or secondary filtration system. Ultimately, we aim to create a system capable of providing potable water to both off grid homes and small rural communities.

Renewable Energy in Transportation

Formula Slug

image21UCSC Formula Slug and Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) is a diverse group of students that collaborates on the most hands-on engineering project at UC Santa Cruz. As a team of just over 100 students, Formula Slug is made up of students from all majors and background who work together on many different projects. Currently, they are working to design and manufacture an ecologically-conscious, open wheeled vehicle in just under six months.  They work out of a variety of spaces, including a lab space, machine shop, and our very own UCSC S-Lab.

Sustainable Power Systems

Electrification in Rural Areas

Electrification in Vanuatu: S-lab and CITRIS have partnered with the United Nations Development Programme to help perform objective feasibility studies for electrification of developing communities in the global south. Students and faculty mentors will work together to recommend appropriate technology for microgrids and grid extensions, taking into account actual sustainability indicators, suppressed demand, and potential income generating activities specific to the communities for holistic and sustainable development.

S-lab teams are currently updating the microgrid facility in the Arboretum for use as a test-bed when analyzing potential electrification solutions. In the future, we hope to explore both on and off-grid solutions, including: demand-response, thermal and chemical storage, mixed AC/DC grids, and smart power monitoring systems.


Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice

Carbon Dioxide Uptake and Library

Understanding how changes in our adoption of new technology and land management practices impact both our carbon emissions and environmental health are critical issues for building sustainable infrastructure in the 21st century. Net carbon emissions are determined by deforestation and burning fossil fuels on the one hand, balanced by carbon uptake by oceans and land resources on the other. However, the relative impact of agriculture, forests and desert plant species is still being debated, as standardized and accessible information infrastructure is lacking. This project aims to design and develop an affordable remote sensing system for in situ measurement of the carbon uptake by individual plant species. Once the system is tested and optimized for simplicity, it will be distributed with an accompanying learning module to communities in diverse locales, with the goal of building a comprehensive database of plant species’ carbon uptake and its dependence on variations in environment.

Pico-Solar Scorecard

As energy generation in the global south shift toward more renewable and sustainable sources, little attention is given to these products' end of life. Pico-solar products, such as <10W solar lanterns, are increasing in popularity - more than 20 million have been sold in Africa and Asia from 2007 to 1015. Unfortunately, these products are not easily repaired nor are their components easily separable or recoverable, meaning the whole system is either simply tosses aside as litter or in many cases burned. UCSC is partnering with the University of Edinburgh and international NGOs to develop and implement a scorecard and grade pico-solar products holistically, assessing potential environmental, social, and geopolitical risk at every stage of the products' life cycle.