City of San Jose enlists students to combat tagging
THE SANTA CLARA
May 19, 2016
Hoping to draw on local young talent, the City of San Jose is challenging creative Bay Area students and entrepreneurs to design a cost-efficient graffiti removal device.
The city, along with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are eliciting submissions to be implemented in Caltrans District Four for typically inaccessible areas such as freeway overpasses.
The “Unleash Your Geek” contest will select as many as four promising prototypes and award up to $20,000 to transform their idea into a working prototype. From the prototypes, a winner will be selected to receive an additional $5,000 and guidance in obtaining a patent for their device. The product would then be used by the City of San Jose for two years and further tested by Caltrans in the 101 cities within the San Francisco Bay Area counties.
According to the online challenge description, the City of San Jose has spent nearly four million dollars on graffiti removal since 2011 and Caltrans spends up to $60,000 for each of their graffiti eradication efforts. San Jose’s Deputy Director of Communications, Alex Wilson, who is responsible for promoting the contest, said that graffiti removal benefits the city because “graffiti depresses economic activity.”
Wilson said that the failure to remove graffiti might convey negligence and disregard for the city’s appearance.
Graffiti, which sometimes includes gang symbols, can also encourage gang activity and violence. Subsequently, people are less likely to invest in businesses and boost the city’s economy.
“Graffiti on the state highway is a major problem not only because it is unsightly, but because graffiti compromises the safety of drivers by obstructing signs and distracting drivers,” Caltrans spokesperson Myeast McCauley said in an email. “Graffiti also places workers in harm’s way by having to remove the graffiti from transportation infrastructure, such as overcrossings spanning across freeways.”
Current graffiti removal protocol is labor-intensive and costly for the city and Caltrans. McCauley said that lane closures on highways and added safety risks for Caltrans workers are the result of current graffiti eradication efforts. He said that these risks are ones that “could have been avoided,” if there were other measures in place.
McCauley added that the “Unleash Your Geek” contest is promising for Caltrans because saving money and more importantly in his perspective, increasing the safety of drivers and highway workers are both paramount.
The contest has been publicized to colleges with robust engineering programs such as Stanford, San Jose State University and Santa Clara. Though the contest is open to all college students, engineering students are especially encouraged to create submissions.
First year computer engineering student Marko Trapani said that his lack of experience will likely keep him from creating a submission of his own.
“I don’t feel that I’d be ready to undertake a project like this as a freshman,” Trapani said. “However, I could potentially see the appeal of working on a project like this sometime in the future. Not only is it a good way to help the city, but a great opportunity to get a hands on experience in the real world.”
Idea submissions for potential prototypes began being accepted on May 11 and interested individuals can submit online until September 30 through HeroX, an online platform that organizes crowd-based social innovation through competition.
A successful prototype will be selected in May 2017 and implemented as soon as the end of 2017.
Contact Bella Rios at firstname.lastname@example.org.