Product Design MEng Capstones

2016-17 Capstones

Seven BEST Projects at Fung Institute Capstone Showcase

  • Tensegrity – Soft Robotics: Recently there has been growing interesting in the field of soft robotics, which features robots that are flexible yet robust. A Tensegrity robot is a form of soft robot that is comprised of a series of rods under compressional load joined together by cables under tensional load; through proper actuation of those cable it can move across undulating surfaces. The BEST lab at UC Berkeley has collaborated with researchers from NASA Ames Research Center to explore the use of tensegrity robots for a variety of purposes. In this project, seven MEng students split into two groups to build three prototypes: the 6-bar sphere tensegrity robot (download flyer and video), 12-bar sphere tensegrity robot (download flyer and slides) and the spine tensegrity robot (download flyer and slides). More at the BEST (Berkekley Emergent Space Tensegrities) research page. Also see the case study of the project by the Fung Institute of Engineering Leadership.
  • Oscillating Wind Power: Traditional wind turbines cannot be sited in many locations, such as much of the California coast and population centers, due to citizen concerns about aesthetics, bird kills, and noise. A new kind of wind generator with a very different mechanism may circumvent such barriers and allow wind power to be installed in many locations where traditional turbines are not allowed. This project will work with a local inventor and another in Seattle, WA to optimize the design’s power output, cost, and aesthetics. This includes building and testing prototypes from small-scale to full-size, as well as modeling in software. If engineering and cost appear promising, students can also propose a business plan for production of the devices. The 2016-17 Capstone project is titled: Design of Oscillating Wind Power (download flyer and see video). It will build on the prototypes built during the 2015-16 Capstones and implement and test in the field. MEng Fung video 2017.
  • Street Nature Score: The goal of this project is to create a small company for environmental and social good. Street Nature Score is an online tool (in beta) using satellite data to measure urban nature for the benefit of the public, urban planners, and realtors. This project will turn the website into a small company by expanding the site’s data to commercially-viable size and by finding / developing funding sources. Students will convert geographic information systems (GIS) satellite data into Street Nature Score data for the biggest 100 cities in the US, and will pursue funding from advertising, real estate sources, and government or academic grants. The company will create environmental and social good by encouraging property owners to plant more urban nature and aiding urban planners’ benchmarking and goal-setting. Technical Challenges: Geographic information systems (GIS) use specialized software which students will learn. The online database used to generate scores and images will be tens of gigabytes in size, or more. Advanced students may also delve into machine learning for image classification (optional). (Download flyer and Slides). Video.
  • Beyond Smartphones, emerging stretchable/Flexible Wearables Exploration in the Internet of Things: Driven by need-finding research, we propose to identify barriers, opportunities and UX concepts for flexible/stretchable wearable technologies within Internet of Things (IoT) environments. Our human-centered design research methods include qualitative and quantitative user research, empathy mapping of user needs, frameworks for latent needs identification and related market analyses. We will develop personas and compelling use scenarios associated with our preliminary prototypes. As experts in human-centric research methods, we expect that our research will result in a deep understanding of the human experience along the entire product journey – going beyond what is possible with existing user-centered design methods. Our test beds will consist of (1) UC Berkeley’s students and (2) professionals from nearby Silicon Valley. Sponsored by Samsung Electronics. The 2016-17 capstone will engage industry partners to seek new form factors, experience, or product/service concepts, which will be next big paradigms beyond current use of smartphones. Considering the previous year’s research team’s outcomes (JOEY project), the new group of students this year will have an opportunity to explore a topic either on their own or one of previously defined topic areas. Students will collectively collaborate together as a team to create such compelling user experience associated with medium-high fidelity stretchable/flexible prototypes, as well as define emerging technologies to be chosen to achieve such expected compelling user experience. This year, we expect to make close collaboration with the industry partner and flexible/stretchable wearable research teams at Stanford University. (Download flyer). See Tacto, with haptic feedback in Virtual Reality.

Completed Capstones

  • Autodesk, Lunar Design, Design4X – Sustainability Guidelines for Early Product Development and Green Design Guide for Design Professionals at
  • Experience Design – Mobility and Staying Connected in a Mercedes-Benz: How to stay one step ahead of the competition with new concepts associated with Being Connected: Mobility Concepts and Services (e.g., Carsharing, Ridesharing, On Demand taxi’s, etc)?  Offer customers a holistic approach to mobility – regardless of whether they want to use a car, a bus, a train or some combination. More on our Smart Vehicles research page.
  • Next Digital: design a next concept of a digital device with a focus on digital-tangible paper transitions. See Next Digital research page.
  • Integrating UX Design with the “Internet of Things”: What will the office of the future be like? Floating chairs and robot surrogates? Not anytime soon. The Smart Office that we envision uses Internet of Things technology to create an environment that responds to workers’ needs. Desks will automatically change from seated to standing mode when a worker gets sleepy, lights and sounds will respond to workers’ stress states, and computers will invite users to take breaks when they need them. We built prototypes based on user interviews and observations, tested them on users, and iterated to develop a vision that we are excited to share with you.  More at Internet of Things, Next Digital research page.
  • Repair Scorecard generates raw data by taking apart many products and measuring several different aspects of the process, then generates a mathematical model that best fits the data without being horrendously complex.  It’ll have physical hands-on work, mathematical analysis work, and user-centered design.  It also has highly impactful clients–if you do a good job, the system could be used by future European Union environmental legislation, because the study by iFixit was commissioned by the European Commission.  The sponsoring company iFixit is a cool group of people, located in both California and Germany. Project was completed and the report presented and delivered to iFixit.

Caption: Alex Lim, former MEng student working on the 6-bar tensegrity project.