Funded Projects and Events

Project Track:


The Cookie Problem

The overarching dream of this project is to develop an entire tech literacy curriculum and implement it into a video game. However, due to the limits of the project, we believe that focusing on one specific topic of tech literacy, Cookies, would provide the greatest benefits. Browser cookies are the most common way websites track user’s information such as previous clicks, location information, most viewed sites, and more (Peacock 2014). The danger is that Cookies can influence what is recommended to users, where the recommendations are typically targeted ads or information that is not accurately checked. This allows a subconscious shift in people’s opinions and facts, especially when they don’t know how to accurately be skeptical about information. Focussing on this one topic, we will make a video game that tackles cookies and their subparts in an effort to teach how to critically think about the consequences of cookies.


  • Leader: John Dominic Sanchez Diez, Graduate, Computational Media
  • Mia King, Undergraduate, Computer Science and Computer Game Design
  • Matthew Ryan Stevens, Undergraduate, Computer Science and Computer Game Design
  • Jacob Alexander Wynd, Undergraduate, Computer Science and Computer Game Design
  • Anh-Tu Pham, Undergraduate, Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Sanyukta Kamath, Undergraduate, Cognitive Science


Ocean Sustainability Autonomous Boats

Current methods for monitoring potentially harmful ocean phenomenon, such as Harmful Algal Blooms (HABS), Red Tide, oil spills, radio-active contaminants, ocean acidification, plastics, garbage, and other forms of pollution, are costly. Three primary methods for studying and monitoring these ocean phenomenon currently exist: 1) satellite imaging, requiring hundreds of millions of dollars for launch, assembly, and operation, 2) manned vessels requiring tens of thousands of dollars, and 3) autonomous buoys ranging in the thousands of dollars that have no ability to travel. This project seeks to design a small low-cost autonomous boat prototype for rapid deployment and extended mission duration for the collection of ocean data that will be made publically available for free: Ocean Sustainability Autonomous Boats (OSAB). The intent is to provide an effective, low-cost means to study transient ocean phenomenon for the betterment of ocean ecosystems and humankind.


  • Leader: Pavlo Vlastos, Graduate – PhD, Computer Engineering with Controls Emphasis
  • James Melvin, Undergraduate, Robotics


Project Pasithea: Towards an Accessible Immersive Virtual Reality Experience for Coping with Anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Our vision of Pasithea is an iVR world designed to help confront anxiety in a suite of games and tools based on accepted therapy strategies accessible to anyone through WebVR where any VR devices or smartphones can connect to the experiences. Bridging the theory of exposure therapy for OCD, we will design three varying exposure scenarios where users will face the top three common symptoms: fear of sickness (such as fear of germs), coping with dark/unwanted thoughts (such as harm to others), and addressing behavioral repetitions of tasks (fixation on objects preventing from active daily living). The project will be developed using the Unity game engine and tested using the HTC Vive headset.


  • Leader: Evanjelin Mahmoodi, Undergraduate, Computer Science and Mathematics
  • Aviv Elor, Graduate – PhD, Computational Media


Circus-Themed Physical Rehabilitation App for Children with Sensory Based Motor Disorder

Children with Sensory Based Motor Disorder (SMBD) have a hard time coordinating their brains and their bodies. They are often stigmatized as the “weak” or “clumsy” kids and are often bullied. Children with SMBD benefit from exercise and physical training because they develop skills and strength to overcome the disorder, but exercise and physical training can be tedious and repetitive. Serious games for health have been shown to provide a motivating context to complete training that leads to improved health outcomes.

In our previous work, we have partnered with a circus organization that runs training classes for children with SBMD where we designed technology probes that support the training activities. For example, we designed a “Tilt Belt” worn around the waist while tight roping that would vibrate along the horizontal plane of the belt when the wearer leaned and a “blower” that would promote deep breaths while exercising. This project was successful, and we would like to provide support for at-home practice as well, which is why we propose to design a serious game for health.

We envision designing a circus-themed app that would use machine learning with accelerometer data to categorize activities which are used to progress in our serious game for health. To train the machine learning models, we plan to collect movement data from children with SMBD during their circus training classes while wearing smart devices with accelerometers. The support from this grant would allow us to develop an open-ended app and accompanying games to collect movement data, to buy tech for the children to wear, to travel to the classes, and to create the machine learning models from the collected data for use in the future serious game for health.


  • Leader: Jared Duval, Graduate-PhD, Computational Media
  • Alexandra Reed, Undergraduate, Computer Science


Event Track:

Everett Program Project Showcase

The Everett Program has been empowering students at UC Santa Cruz to use technology for direct action in social justice and environmental sustainability for over 20 years. We are a fully functioning interdisciplinary program on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The program guides students through designing and implementing projects with the SOCY 30A and 107A/107B class series to work in solidarity with partner organizations addressing different social and environmental justice issues.Our goal with this event is to expose the work of the Everett Program, create an opportunity for undergraduate students to build their personal and professional skills, and celebrate the hard work they have done. After the completion of the program we want the Everett Program students to be able to go out into the world and be changemakers for issues they are passionate about. In order to do so, you must be able to tell your story and cultivate support from people outside of the project and work, and this event will help them share their stories. We aim to make this showcase an annual event, that becomes larger and more interactive for the following year.


  • Lily Nauta, Undergraduate, Sociology
  • Sofia-Lissett Kooner, Undergraduate, Critical Race and Ethnic Studies
  • Matthew Oey, Undergraduate, Computer Science



CruzHacks is a non-profit, student-run, annual hackathon based in UC Santa Cruz. Each year we welcome hundreds of college and high school students interested in developing technology for social good. We strive to empower the next generation of creators by providing the tools, environment, and motivation to plausibly solve real-world problems. Since our founding in 2013, we’ve expanded CruzHacks to better accommodate an ever-growing community of innovators. With the support of our sponsors, our diverse group of attendees has the opportunity to build confidence, network, and develop solutions for social change (often with our sponsors’ technology). CruzHacks partners with Major League Hacking (MLH), and we are working hard to incorporate progressive design values into the experience.


  • Jennifer Dutra, Undergraduate, Computer Science
  • Neha Pamidi, Undergraduate, Computer Science