2021 Thriving Amidst Chaos

January 13, 2021

By Lillian K Wang

Fall 2020 PreCapstone Innovation Experience Final Presentations

The PreCapstone Innovation Experience is a hybrid (online and in person) instruction course that allows students from various engineering disciplines to create a tangible solution to a real-life problem. Typically, the PreCapstone Innovation Experience consists of online modules and lessons as well as in-person labs and meetings. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the course was fully remote this term and taught by instructors Eugene Callahan, Vittoria Flamini, Jin Montclare, and Sara Thermer.


Though this made things more challenging where teams had to virtually coordinate their projects, students in the PreCapstone course pushed through and triumphantly completed projects. Living through the pandemic and experiencing the impact of wildfires due to climate change, the teams were keen on directly addressing these problems head on. 


Team “Air” team, which consisted of students Daniel Foust (BS Electrical Engineering, NYU Tandon ’21), Jin Kim (BS Computer Science, NYU Tandon ‘22 , Toi Montgomery (BS Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, NYU Tandon ’21), tackled the issue of air quality due to the wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.  They focused on the inconsistency of Air Quality Index (AQI) measurements across different weather applications. They observed that most individuals were not aware or did not have much knowledge on AQI and that AQI levels sometimes varied dramatically across different weather platforms and applications due to faulty or inaccurate sensors. This issue introduces a huge health and safety risk for individuals. In response, the Air team proposed an innovative iOS AQI application with a portable AQI sensor unit that can detect the AQI levels via real time. With their new AQI application and sensor unit, Air hopes to “promote a cleaner atmosphere for everyone”. The Air team claims, “To Air is human, to breathe, divine.”

Left: Air iOS Application, Right: AQI Sensor Unit


The “Tracc” team comprised of students Anjali James (BS Computer Engineering, NYU Tandon ’23) Nelson James (BS Science and Technology Studies, NYU Tandon ’21), Demetri Sebastian Lopez (BS Computer Science, NYU Tandon ’22) confronted the issue of the lack of teacher-student engagement that comes with remote teaching. Through interviews with various high school teachers, the Tracc team observed that teachers during the pandemic were having a difficult time gauging their students’ engagement and mastery of relevant course topics and material. As a solution, they decided to create Tracc, a real-time online engagement metric that can be tailored specifically to the course to track a student’s level of engagement and responsiveness. Through surveys and quizzes, Tracc monitors student’s responses to various questions and returns a portfolio containing a student’s unique qualitative results (seconds required to answer question, how many and which days a student answers on). With their new engagement metric, the Tracc team aims to eliminate the disconnect between teachers and students that arises from online remote instruction and generate a more accurate depiction of a student’s engagement and participation for the instructor. With Tracc, education is “teachers and students first”.


Sample of Tracc Survey

Tracc Dashboard

Tracc Sample Student Portfolio


Similar to last Spring semester, this fall semester introduced its own challenges. However, despite full remote instruction, students and faculty of the PreCapstone Innovation Experience were able to maintain consistent progress and present strong presentations at the end of the semester. The students of the PreCapstone Innovation Experience are now ready to embark on their senior year Capstone projects and become the brightest and most innovative students and leaders of tomorrow. 

Fall 2020 PreCapstone Innovation Experience Students and Faculty

Top (Left to Right): Toi Montgomery, Professor Michael Knox, Professor Sara Thermer

Middle (Left to Right): Daniel Foust, Jin Kim, Professor Jin Montclare, Anjali James

Bottom (Left to Right): Demetri Sebastian Lopez, Nelson James


NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s CIE Institute supports initiatives that help faculty and students reach greater heights by harnessing important technologies and re- imagining business ideas. We catapult these ideas into advanced, problem-solving innovations to address society’s greatest problems.

Our mission is to increase diversity and multi-disciplinary in STEM entrepreneurship and provide guidance as well as resources for STEM innovators to start-up.


For more information about these programs, please contact us at cie@nyu.edu