Graduate Student Charlie Vidal Receives 1st Place in the 35th Annual CSU Wide Research Competition

December 2, 2021


Students who participated in the research projects in Intelligent Structural Hazard Mitigation Laboratory (iSHM Lab)
Charlie Vidal, sitting in front row center, along with Dr. Zhaoshuo Jiang, Civil Engineering Professor, in back row far right


Charlie performing walking experiments in the lab to measure floor vibration using seismic accelerometer

Charlie Vidal, a graduate student in the Civil Engineering SF Scholar Program, represented San Francisco State University in the 35th annual CSU-wide research competition hosted at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona on April 28-29, 2021. Charlie came home with 1st place in the Engineering & Computer Science category.

Charlie's project "From the Health of Structures to that of its Occupants" intends to develop, for the first time, an always-on, non-intrusive, non-wearable smart sensing system for the automated estimation of at-home gait parameters using floor vibrations for an urgent need to help older adults keep track of their health status in a timely manner. According to the most recent report from Census Bureau, more than 20% of U.S. residents will be age 65+ in 2050, and the total population will reach 83.7 million. Older adults visit doctors during regularly scheduled visits or when the patient feels new or intensified symptoms. There is often considerable time between the onset of an illness and the time the patients see a doctor. The proposed approach utilizes existing sensors for structural health monitoring in the building to extract gait parameters, such as the sixth vital sign – walking speed, to better connect health professionals with older adults in an automated fashion and without the need for user interference. The project is part of a $1.2 million R01 research grant funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) - the first NIH grant ever received by the School of Engineering at San Francisco State University (SFSU).

"Charlie is one of those students with extraordinary motivation, independence, and responsibility, which are not typically found in a student at his level." Prof. Zhaoshuo Jiang, Charlie's academic advisor, commended on Charlie's achievement. Despite his great achievement, Charlie's educational journey did not always have a favorable wind all the way. As an undocumented student, Charlie experienced the language, social, financial, and academic challenges like many other dreamers. As an example, for his five elementary school years, he had to start one hour before every student and stayed one hour after every student to simply close the gap of his language barrier and stay at the same pace as everyone else. The hardship only made Charlie stronger, and he found belonging and supports for his success at SFSU! At SFSU, Charlie has been working on research projects with Prof. Jiang in the Intelligent Structural Hazard Mitigation Laboratory at the School of Engineering since his junior year. When asked about his experience in the lab, Charlie responded: "I was lucky enough to conduct research with brilliant and talented individuals. As a civil engineering student, I could not have imagined learning how to code, how to perform experiments, how to properly write papers, or how to process large amounts of data. I learned this and much more through my three years of research experience. Many of the skills that I learned I believe are transferable into any kind of professional settings".

In addition to working on the research project, Charlie was also active in giving back to the community. He served as a graduate mentor in the Strengthening Pathways to Success in STEM program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Through the program, Charlie shared his experience as a first-generation college graduate and provided guidance to facilitate the transition and ensure success for transfer students between Skyline College and SFSU. Now, Charlie has accepted a full-time position at Clark construction, where he will be applying his skills and knowledge to heavy civil structures. At the same time, he started his own construction company, Vidsan Builders, with his dad to work on building residential homes. We wish Charlie all the best!