The Cal Poly Digital Transformation Hub (DxHub) and a group of Cal Poly students designed technology for the World Bank to help determine what school buildings in developing countries need infrastructure improvements.

This project was part of the World Bank’s Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS), which aims to improve the safety and resiliency of school infrastructure against natural disasters. According to the World Bank, improving infrastructure protects the lives of students and teachers, and improves the quality of the learning environment.

The World Bank sought a way to gather baseline data about schools in developing countries that could be utilized on a global scale. In collaboration with the DxHub and World Bank partners, students developed a mobile app and deep learning computer vision model to address this need.

“It’s pretty awesome to see other Cal Poly students work with these organizations to create solutions and real positive change around the world,” sociology and political science senior Ashley Choi said. Choi is a student employee at the DxHub and helped manage the collaboration between Cal Poly’s student teams and the World Bank team.

Nicholas Hansen, a computer science senior, explained that students in a previous course passed the project on to students in the Artificial Intelligence (CSC 480) course that he took in winter quarter. 

“You have to learn what the other people did within a couple of weeks max because then you need to do the actual stuff that you were assigned to do,” Hansen said. “It’s very fast-paced and it forces you to learn really quickly.

The mobile app they designed would allow people in developing countries to submit photos of school buildings directly to engineers at the World Bank. The computational model would help identify vulnerabilities from those photos to narrow down which schools the engineers should prioritize for inspection.

According to Franz Kurfess, a computer science professor who oversaw the student teams, previously engineers would have to inspect schools individually and there was no way to address the problem on a large scale,

Kurfess’s students in Artificial Intelligence (CSC 480) and Current Topics in Computer Science (CSC 570) worked on this project over the past two years.

“Students were attracted to it because it’s a challenging project, a real-world project,” Kurfess said.

A school in Nepal suffered damages as the result of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April 2015. World Bank | Courtesy

The information gathered with this technology ultimately helps the World Bank determine which schools need funding to improve their infrastructure. 

“By drawing conclusions at a large scale, the AI solution prevents the need to carry out those conventional assessments over the entire portfolio and is projected to reduce time and expense by 50%,” Task Team Lead of the GPSS, Fernando Ramirez Cortes, said in a news release.

Cal Poly’s DxHub, which Amazon Web Services supports, managed the collaboration between Cal Poly students and the GPSS partners. They also provided resources to create the technology.

“Our partnership with the World Bank enables Cal Poly students to innovate and problem solve in ways that have real impact,” DxHub Director Paul Jurasin said in a news release.