LA County has harnessed California State University, Los Angeles’ (CSU LA) computer engineering senior project program to complete two projects in a test run for a long-term effort. The pilot was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 17.
The senior project program costs about $20,000 per project, which the partnering entity pays to the university.
The current projects include a "smart board" project in the Hall of Administration, which could harness narrow-AI technology, and a vehicle tracking program for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Each of these projects includes six students and two advisers.
“The project lasts a full academic year and gives students experience in applying their course knowledge to real-life design challenges and managing a project from start to finish,” Emily Allen, dean for the College of Engineering, Computer Science and Technology at CSU LA, wrote to Techwire.
The county will be reporting on the projects to the Board of Supervisors in February to discuss return on investment, project progress and the experience of working with the university.
“We hope that that would then lead to a more permanent partnership agreement," Allen told Techwire in an interview. "And at that point, the sky’s the limit as to how many projects could be done. If they’re IT-related, we have 150 students in senior project for computer science alone; we can handle any number of projects that the county may want to work with us on."
Allen also said the projects could expand into other departments and disciplines, including civil engineering and mechanical engineering.
“The partnership has potential to expand to the entire campus, providing student and faculty projects in many disciplines that align with the needs of the county of Los Angeles,” Allen wrote.
The county sees the project as an opportunity to “breathe some fresh air into the IT ecosystem” and “create recruitment opportunities,” according to Jeramy Gray, assistant executive officer of Technology and Planning for the county.
“Since both institutions have lots of bureaucracy, I think the goal is to make an easy way to partner,” Allen said.
The program offers hands-on practical experience of the theories students have learned in the classroom, said Lisa Garrett, the county's director of personnel.
“My understanding is that there is a strong desire to have a stronger footprint at educational institutions so that students are more aware of employment at the county and what kind of opportunities there are,” Allen said.
Garrett hopes the program will help “bring in the best and brightest talent” as the county positions itself to be the “employer of choice.” She also said that the program, like internships with the county, creates workforce pipelines by making students familiar with county systems before applying for jobs.
“They will gain exposure to the county’s vast scope and responsibility through hands-on interactive projects that relate to human services, public safety social justice, and more,” LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis wrote to Techwire. “Our goal is to give students a sense of civic responsibility and an understanding of how best to apply their education to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable communities.”