Previous EPIC instructors.  Instructors for 2018 may be different. 


Prof. Karen Bangs

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Karen Bangs holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Cal Poly SLO and an MBA from University of California, Irvine. She will begin her 10th year of teaching at Cal Poly in the fall. Before joining Cal Poly she spent 19 years in the semi-conductor industry working at Skyworks Solutions Inc. (formerly Conexant Systems Inc. formerly Rockwell Semiconductor Systems). Her responsibilities included Industrial Engineering analysis, Operations Finance, Project Management, and Supply Chain Management. She teaches a wide range of subjects from Introduction to Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering to Human Factors to Quality Engineering. She also led the Women In Engineering Program 2007-2010.

Dr. Charles Birdsong

Professor Charles Birdsong is a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Cal Poly. He teaches courses in the dynamics, vibrations and controls series and conducts research in the areas of automotive safety related to advanced technologies such as collision avoidance and autonomous driving systems.

Dr. Pamalee Brady

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Dr. Brady combined her love of art and math in the field of structural engineering. She graduated from Cal Poly with a B.S. in Architectural Engineering, University of California, Berkeley with a M.S. in Civil Engineering and Ph.D. with an emphasis in structural engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She worked as a consulting engineer in San Francisco, CA for several years and in applied research for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering Research Laboratory before joining the faculty at Cal Poly. Dr. Brady has been teaching at Cal Poly for 14 years. Her research interests focus on the design process and engineering education.

Dr. John Chen

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 John Chen is a professor of mechanical engineering at Cal Poly.  He received his BS in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia, and his MS and PhD from Stanford University.  He has been teaching college since 1994.  He is very interested in getting more people, especially young children and non-engineers, doing engineering and understanding the technologies that infuse our lives. 

Dr. Kathy Chen

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 Dr. Kathy Chen grew up never thinking that she'd become an engineer until later in college when she realized her interest with how the world worked and wanted to serve society in some way. She ended up getting undergraduate degrees in Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering at Michigan State University, and then a Ph.D. in Materials Science at MIT. She worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory doing materials analysis and development before coming to Cal Poly. She has been a professor in the Materials Engineering department for 14 years. Her research interests include shape memory alloys, phase transformations, materials characterization, engineering education, and informal science learning.

Dr. Dennis Derickson

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Dr. Dennis Derickson earned a BS in EE from South Dakota State University in 1981, a MS in EE from the University of Wisconsin in 1981, and a Ph.D. in EE from UC Santa Barbara in 1992. He worked for HP for 18 years in the area of high frequency test and measurement techniques. He then worked for a startup company, Cierra Photonica, for 5 years. He has been with Cal Poly since 2005 and is presently the EE department chair.

Ms. Christina Diaz

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Christina Diaz received a BS and MS in Aerospace Engineering focusing on Spacecraft Design from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2013. She works at NASA¹s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA as a systems engineer. She is currently in the Natural Space Environments group. Her responsibilities include modeling and defining the space environment (space junk, meteoroids, radiation, plasma) for planetary and interplanetary missions going to study the Earth, Mars, or even Europa, one of Jupiter¹s moons. With her spare time, Christina enjoys volunteering and doing STEM-focused outreach to promote higher education. She is on the John Muir High School Engineering and Environmental Science Advisory Board and Cal Poly¹s Multicultural Engineering Program (MEP) Industry Advisory Board.

Dr. Eltahry Elghandour

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Dr. Eltahry Elghandour: has worked as a principal and co-principal investigator on several NASA, Air Force, and Navy research projects. He has also published over 80 papers for national and international conferences and over 20 reports for different funded projects. In addition to teaching at Cal Poly since 1993, Dr. Elghandour has considerable research experience in experimental and finite element analysis of structures including design, manufacture of composite materials, and testing.

Mr. Noel Ellis

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Noel Ellis is Director for Engineering Learning and University Relations at Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. In this role, he supports an Engineering organization of approximately 6000 employees domestically. His responsibilities include the development of and leadership for Engineering Continuing Education, Organizational Training, as well as a number of Talent Development Programs. He is also responsible for Engineering University Relations including the management of the University Research portfolio. In 2012/13, Ellis was Raytheon’s Professor of Practice at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Ellis is also a leader and spokesperson for Raytheon’s ongoing efforts to promote student interest in STEM careers — Science, Technology, Education and Math. In this capacity, he leads the annual Engineers Week activities at SAS and participates regularly in community outreach events to increase awareness of STEM career opportunities among middle and high school students.

Mr. Mike Haag

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Graduated Cal Poly 1986 with a computer science degree. Have spent 30 years in the technology business in a variety of roles; Marketing, Sales, and Management. I have 3 children, Matthew 20, Kelsey 18, and Mitchell 15. Matthew is a continuing Cal Poly Aero Student. My hobbies include Airplanes and motorcycles.

Dr. David Janzen

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David Janzen received his PhD from the University of Kansas in 2006. He has over 15 years of teaching experience, and has worked for Sprint and as a corporate trainer and consultant. At Cal Poly, David primarily teaches software engineering and Android mobile courses.  He also has a popular course on Udemy (  David enjoys helping students think entrepreneurially, and he has helped several students start companies.  He co-founded a company that created Papyrus, an Android and Windows note-taking app with over two million downloads (

Prof. Melinda Keller

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Melinda Keller is an alternative energy professor and researcher in the Mechanical Engineering Department. She has been at Cal Poly for 14 years and has taught for Aerospace, Civil, and Mechanical Engineering. Her current projects include high performance electric go kart racing and water efficient collected solar power plant design. Professor Keller has worked for Boeing Satellite Systems doing satellite test design and for Morgan Manufacturing which designs and builds amusement park rides. Professor Keller is also involved with many clubs and professional societies.

Eric Magill

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Eric Magill is a graduate of Cal Poly State University with a  Bachelor's/Master's of Science in Biomedical Engineering with a specialization in Regenerative Medicine. In the Regenerative Medicine field, he wants to help develop scaffolds and bioreactors to grow new organs. For his senior design project, he completed a beach compatible mobility assist device for a 12 year old with Cerebral Palsy. He also worked with Edwards Lifesciences to help semi-automate the procedure required to test the deflection of heart valve leaflets. In the future, Eric will pursue a combined MD/PhD program and hopes to practice as a surgeon while also completing research in the field of Regenerative Medicine.  

Dr. Saeed Niku

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Saeed Niku, PhD, PE, is a professor of mechanical engineering at Cal Poly, and has taught robotics, mechanics, and design since 1983. He has advised numerous senior projects and masters theses, mostly involving design of new products and machines, devices to help the disabled, and robotics.

Dr. John Oliver

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Dr. Oliver likes the dynamic field of computer architecture. Low-power embedded systems are particularly interesting, the design space requires innovative, elegant solutions. He is currently working on investigating the environmental impact of semiconductors and how eco-related metrics can impact architectural design. He also has several hard-drive related projects, and is starting to be interested in how data storage is managed, both in hardware and in software, for personal and enterprise usage. He is probably the only professor at Cal Poly that wears a costume to class for Halloween. Dork!

Dr. Anurag Pande

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Dr. Pande's research interests include traffic safety, driver behavior, traffic simulation, emergency evacuation, and scholarship of teaching. He received the “Young Researcher Award” by the Transportation Research Board’s Committee on Safety Data, Analysis, and Evaluation in 2007. He has co-authored close to 30 manuscripts that have been either published or are forthcoming in peer reviewed journals. He has worked on several sponsored projects including a study on driver behavior funded by the National Science Foundation. He was also one of the invited speakers on “Changes in Traffic Safety Policies and Regulations in 7 Countries (1950-2010)” at 2012 International Workshop organized by IATSS (International Association of Traffic and Safety Sciences) in Tokyo. He is also the editor of the upcoming edition of Traffic Engineering Handbook published by ITE.

Dr. Zachary Peterson

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Zachary Peterson is an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at Cal Poly, specializing in computer security. He especially enjoys building secure systems that use cryptography in new and interesting ways. He is also very interested in engaging students of all ages in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) disciplines, and in particular, computer security and privacy. In particular, he likes developing games that are designed to remove traditional barriers associated with using a computer, improve security literacy and introduce students to new career paths related to security and engineering. His first game, [d0x3d!], is a board game that introduces network security concepts, terminology and cooperative and adversarial thinking to high school and undergraduate students. Prof. Peterson holds a PhD in Computer Science earned at The Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Security Informatics from the Information Security Institute at The Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Computer Science and a BS in Computer Engineering from the Baskin School of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Tiffany Racz

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Tiffany Racz is graduate student pursuing her masters degree in Environmental and Civil Engineering at Cal Poly. As an undergraduate, she studied Environmental Engineering at Cal Poly and became highly involved in water and waste water treatment through research with Dr Lundquist, a world renowned algae researcher. She is currently running an experiment on anaerobically digesting algae grown on waste water for the production of methane gas and solubilization of nutrients for nutrient recycling. She is a partial author of a research paper focused on phytoremediation and phytostimulation to investigate the idea of using animal feed crops to treat contaminated soil while using recycled water. She is deeply involved with recycling nutrients as a valuable resource. She worked for the US Forest Service in the Lake Tahoe Basin  where she was born and raised.  She has the goal of continuing research of recycling nutrients and using waste water as a valuable water source. 


Ms. Pam Rickard

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Pam Rickard is a 15-year math and science middle school teacher. She has designed a STEM elective class to bring engineering design practices, computer science, and Making into the classroom. She has served on the board of the Central Coast STEM Collaborative and as a producer of the San Luis Obispo Mini Maker Faire. Her resume includes Executive Producer of News at KSBY-TV in San Luis Obispo and custom home designer/CAD draftsperson at Crizer Design in Los Osos, CA. She is a part of the STEAM team at Los Osos Middle School. In her free time, Ms. Rickard enjoys mountain biking, motocross, and surfing.

Dr. Zoe Wood

Zoë Wood is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at California Polytechnic State University. Dr. Wood obtained her Ph.D. from Caltech where she studied geometric modeling. She researches and teaches in the field of computer graphics with a specific focus on geometric modeling (from acquired data), real-time computer graphics applications, scientific visualization and rendering.