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Amphibious Robots Storm Millikan Pond for ME 72

03-18-20

Caltech's annual engineering design competition returned for its 35th installment. Five teams of Caltech undergraduates spent months building three amphibious remote-controlled robots per team that could drive into Millikan Pond and speed across the water to drop, shoot, or push balls into targets and outscore the opposing team. It was a high-stakes afternoon of capsizing, cheering, and triumph. [Caltech story]

Tags: MCE ME 72 Michael Mello

Blanquart Receives Research Excellence Award

03-06-20

Guillaume Blanquart, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded the 2020 Research Excellence Award. The award is given by the Combustion Institute to registered Combustion Institute members who, in the opinion of the Executive Committee, have published excellent research papers that have had a major impact on the field of combustion science. [Recipients]

Tags: honors MCE Guillaume Blanquart

Microstructures Self-Assemble into New Materials

03-03-20

A new process developed at Caltech makes it possible for the first time to manufacture large quantities of materials whose structure is designed at a nanometer scale—the size of DNA's double helix. Pioneered by Professor Julia R. Greer, "nanoarchitected materials" exhibit unusual, often surprising properties—for example, exceptionally lightweight ceramics that spring back to their original shape, like a sponge, after being compressed. Now, a team of engineers at Caltech and ETH Zurich have developed a material that is designed at the nanoscale but assembles itself—with no need for the precision laser assembly. "We couldn't 3-D print this much nanoarchitected material even in a month; instead we're able to grow it in a matter of hours," says Carlos M. Portela, Postdoctoral Scholar. "It is exciting to see our computationally designed optimal nanoscale architectures being realized experimentally in the lab," says Dennis M. Kochmann, Visiting Associate. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Julia Greer Dennis Kochmann Carlos Portela

Team CoSTAR Takes First Place in Underground Robot Competition

02-27-20

A team including Caltech researchers and JPL earned top honors in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. Whether robots are exploring caves on other planets or disaster areas here on Earth, they need to be able to navigate a location and seek out objects of interest without access to GPS or human guidance. The Subterranean Challenge tests this kind of cutting-edge technology. "One of the two courses we had to run had multiple levels, so it was great that the Boston Dynamics robots were fantastic on stairs," says Joel Burdick, the Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering and JPL research scientist, and the leader of the Caltech campus section of the CoSTAR team. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Joel Burdick

Melany Hunt Wins Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

02-13-20

Melany Hunt, Dotty and Dick Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has won the Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching. The prize was established in 1993, and is awarded annually to a professor who demonstrates unusual talent, creativity, innovation, and an ability to create an inclusive learning environment in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching. [Past recipients] [Caltech story]

Tags: honors MCE Melany Hunt Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Michael Brown Receives Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship

02-12-20

Junior undergraduate student Michael Brown, studying Mechanical Engineering and Aerospace Engineering, has been awarded a Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes exceptional college juniors, seniors, and graduate students pursuing aerospace careers and includes a paid internship at a commercial space company. Michael will be interning at The Spaceship Company. The Program honors the memory of an engineer, entrepreneur, and extraordinary individual whose passion for commercial space exploration led to great strides in the industry. [2020 class of fellows] [News release]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Michael Brown

Ultrasound Can Selectively Kill Cancer Cells

02-05-20

Professor Michael Ortiz and Professor Morteza Gharib are exploring a new technique that could offer a targeted approach to fighting cancer. Low-intensity pulses of ultrasound have been shown to selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. In the past, ultrasound waves have been used as a cancer treatment with high-intensity bursts resulting in killing cancer and normal cells. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE MCE Morteza Gharib Michael Ortiz

Bionic Jellyfish Swim Faster and More Efficiently

01-30-20

John Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, has developed a tiny prosthetic that enables jellyfish to swim faster and more efficiently than they normally do, without stressing the animals. Dabiri is envisioning a future in which jellyfish equipped with sensors could be directed to explore and record information about the ocean. "Only five to 10 percent of the volume of the ocean has been explored, so we want to take advantage of the fact that jellyfish are everywhere already to make a leap from ship-based measurements, which are limited in number due to their high cost," Dabiri says. "If we can find a way to direct these jellyfish and also equip them with sensors to track things like ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and so on, we could create a truly global ocean network where each of the jellyfish robots costs a few dollars to instrument and feeds themselves energy from prey already in the ocean." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE John Dabiri

Professor Ames Receives Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize

12-19-19

Aaron Ames, Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems, has won the Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize. This prize is given to recognize outstanding achievement in research in systems and control by a young researcher and to honor the memory of Dr. Antonio Ruberti. [Past recipients]

Tags: honors MCE Aaron Ames

Robots Compete Underground in DARPA Challenge

12-06-19

A robot named Balto designed and built by undergraduate students at Caltech working with graduate students at Caltech and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, took to the field in the first phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Subterranean (SubT) Challenge this summer, where the Caltech-JPL team took second place. The SubT Challenge is an international competition sponsored by DARPA to advance technologies to autonomously map, navigate, and search underground environments. Professor Joel Burdick, the leader of the Caltech section of the CoSTAR team says "The drones are our air-based scouts, and Balto is our eyes and ears on the ground. It's light, cheap, and fast. It can get in, find out what's going on, and help us to make decisions about how to proceed." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Joel Burdick