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 natural and 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 S-Lab can support your project and you are interesting in joining, please fill out the webform: Pitch a Project 


Sustainable Food Systems

Toadstool Composting

Did you know that 50-70% recyclables delivered to our municipal Resource Recovery Facility at the Santa Cruz Dimeo Lane were actually solid waste contaminants, and therefore could not be recycled? This includes an estimated 56,000 lbs of waste from pizza boxes from the UCSC campus. Toadstool composting is an innovative project at UCSC to divert food-stained pizza boxes, which are currently treated as solid waste and can contaminate clean cardboard recycling streams, to nutrient rich compost.

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 anything currently in use. Ultimately, we aim to create a system capable of providing potable water to both off grid homes and small rural communities.

Clean Oceans Plastic Recovery

Plastic-to-fuel projects are beginning to gain traction in the energy industry, with rising awareness of the prolific environmental damage caused by single-use plastics and people’s insufficient recycling habits leading researchers to turn to alternative recycling or depolymerization methods for our mounting plastic output. An important first step in reclaiming this material is the ability to sort and identify which plastics are accumulating where and in what quantities. Students working at the Sustainability-Lab with the Impact Designs: Engineering and Sustainability through Student Service are making strides by validating low-tech plastics characterization techniques that can be used in the field during beach clean-up or waste assessment efforts and ultimately track material stockpiles.


Building on prior work, the DROPS project incorporates low impact development strategies to reduce onsite flooding, capture storm water runoff, and filter pollutants by working with students and community members. This year's team of interdisciplinary UCSC students is focusing on flood mitigation and control in Bay View Elementary School through rainwater harvesting as a demonstration project for conservation strategies. By integrating engineering alongside lesson plans for capacity and outreach activities, this project has the potential to change our collective approach to sustainable water management by engaging students, city council members, and the Santa Cruz community at large.

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  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. 

Sustainable Power Systems

Electrification in Rural Areas

Renewable Energy installation in an Ecuadorian Community Center: S-lab and EWB-UCSC are working with the community of San Clemente in Ecuador to design a grid independent center for teaching cultural traditions and renewable energy applications to the local youth.

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.


The University of California cannot meet its Carbon Neutral by 2025 initiative if it does not understand the ongoing impact of its buildings. Though many buildings in the UC system are LEED certified, certifying under LEED for New Construction does not hold UCSC accountable to achieve and maintain green building performance of an occupied building. However, LEED for Building Operations and Management does just this and, as the UCSC division of LEED Lab, we are conducting feasibility studies on three buildings at UCSC -- McHenry Library, Digital Arts and Media, and Engineering -- to evaluate water and energy use, procurement procedures, cleaning practices, access to alternative transportation, site management approaches, and other parameters of our buildings over time. The 2017-2022 UCSC Campus Sustainability plan states an intention to “involve all students in experiential learning in the natural and built environments that comprise the campus as a living laboratory.” LEED Lab at UCSC is doing just that.

Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice


Slugbotics is a student organization at UC Santa Cruz focused on introducing students of any major to underwater robotics and hands-on engineering projects. We design, program, fabricate, and test ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles) that are designed to complete complex tasks in a marine environment, such as removing debris from our oceans, monitoring ocean temperature and acidification, placing a tidal turbine for wave generated power, and more. After our ROV is constructed, we will take it to compete in the international Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) competition this June.

Rocket Team 

The Rocket Team is a student-run organization devoted to all things aerospace and rocketry at UC Santa Cruz. We teach students how to design, build, and launch high-powered amateur rockets in a safe and cooperative environment. Each school year, the team participates in rocket launching competitions, educational outreach events at local middle schools, and research projects on atmospheric science. Recently, the team successfully flew its maiden flight in the NASA Student Launch Initiative 2018-19, a national engineering design challenge hosted annually by the Marshall Space Flight Center. This feat is one accomplished by only a select few colleges and universities, making UC Santa Cruz a newly impressive contender on one of the largest recognized scales of rocketry.

Without A Trace (Trash Toss)

In order to raise awareness and clean up our recycling streams, an interdisciplinary team of computer science, sustainability studies, and art students is designing and building an interactive and educational mobile game. Their aim is a “gamified” behavior change campaign: influence detrimental consumption and disposal habits still practiced by many members of the UCSC campus community. The game is being assembled on a Unity platform and will be playable on IOS and Android.