The BEST Lab has three major theme areas. (1) The Berkeley Expert Systems Technologies (BEST) Lab addresses cutting edge research in applied Artificial Intelligence, Expert Systems, Human-Computer Interaction and Design Informatics. (2) The Berkeley Energy and Sustainable Technologies (BEST) Lab focuses on sustainable communities, sustainable product design, alternate energy and appropriate technologies. (3)  The Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities (BEST) is a new collaboration on tensegrity soft robotics with NASA Ames.

The BEST Lab is located in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of California at Berkeley under the direction of Professor Alice Agogino. The BEST has moved to its new design loft in the Mezzanine of Hesse Hall.

Tensegrity Team Finalist for BEST Student Paper Award at Robotics Conference

Photo of Kyunam Kim accepting award Image of award

Finalist (of four) for Best Student Paper Award (doctoral student Kyunam Kim was the lead author), 2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics, ROBIO2014. Download paper:: "Rapid Prototyping Design and Control of Tensegrity Soft Robot for Locomotion", K. Kyunam, A.K. Agogino, D. Moon, L. Taneja, Al. Toghyan, B. Dehghani, V. SunSpiral and A.M. Agogino.

BEST Labbers Install Energy Sensors in Demonstration Homes Co-Designed and Built with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation

Photo of energy sensor in the shape of abalone shell Photo of demonstration home with PPN


From the news article: "Last week marked an exciting time in the completion of our Prototype Homes as three University of California, Berkeley graduate students visited to begin monitoring temperature, humidity and light in the first of our two Prototype Homes constructed using straw bale methods. The crew from Berkeley included [Katy Van Lieshout, Jeff Lee, Miho Kitagawa (Mechanical Engineering graduate students from UC Berkeley working with Prof. Alice Agogino)], who installed the monitoring equipment. The first round will last two weeks as the group gathers baseline data in the empty home. While traditional monitoring techniques were utilized, the students took things to another level with their own culturally-inspired monitoring design. In slide 1 [photo upper right] you’ll see what looks like an Abalone shell, but that’s no mollusk. With help from a 3D printer, the design was created by Katie and features a mini-solar cell to keep the unit powered. As stated before, the units will measure temperature, humidity and light within the house with the goal of analyzing the efficiency of the design. The group looks to return in November to look at the data and begin analysis before tenants are selected. We look forward to examining the results and seeing how the energy-saving methods utilized in construction translate to real-time benefits."

Fung Capstone Project with Mercedes-Benz Implemented at Ladera Ranch

Image of Ladera Ranch Photo of Rasheq Zarif


Working with former BEST Labber Rasheq Zarif of Mercedes-Benz, Prof. Agogino's 2013-14 Masters of Engineering Capstone team developed prototype routings and user interfaces for the project, also with estimates of life cycle energy and carbon benefits. Exclusively for Ranch residents, RanchRide is the convenient, easy and eco-friendly way to get where you want to go. From one of the press releases: "Starting Monday, November 10, 2014, the new pilot program called "RanchRide" will offer a host of convenient transportation or "mobility" services exclusively to residents of the 4,000-acre community and the 6,000-acre Rancho Mission Viejo community, both in South Orange County, CA. Originally introduced in late July during a test phase, RanchRide is a partnership between the Business Innovation group of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America, Inc. and Rancho Mission Viejo, LLC, master planner and developer of Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo, the largest new community in California with up to 14,000 homes planned in several villages." Another article emphasizes that Mercedes-Benz shows commitment to mobility optimization. Photo in the upper right shows Richard Broming, senior vice president of planning and entitlement for Rancho Mission Viejo, left, with Rasheq Zarif, senior manager business innovation at Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America Inc. Quote from our sponsor Rasheq Zarif: “It was really great having the Capstone team working with us on our Residential Mobility project. Their research and concept creation played into the development of what is called RanchRide today.”

Cookstove case study - Students in the new development engineering class make lunch on cookstoves

Pierce Gordon's interview

A cookstove experiment was conducted outside the Haas School of Business as part of our new class on Design, Evaluate and Scale Development Technologies. This class serves as a core class for the Ph.D. designated emphasis in Development Engineering and also the Product Design concentration for the Mechanical Engineering MEng degree. Faculty interviewed are Alice M. Agogino (Mechanical Engineering) and David Levine (Haas School of Business), the co-instructors of the core class in the Development Engineering graduate minor. Graduate students interviewed are Pierce Gordon (Energy Resources Group) and Karan Patel (Product Design, Mechanical Engineering). We were also joined by Ashok Gadgil (Environmental Engineering and LBNL), Vi Rapp (LBNL) and Susan Amrose (Environmental Engineering and LBNL), all of whom have been involved in developing, testing and refining the Berkeley Darfur Stove.

The COE home page currently has it on the front page: Cookstove case study - Students in the new development engineering class make lunch on cookstoves.  "The Dev Eng class trains students to tackle development technology design challenges, like building a better, cleaner and more efficient cookstove, from a holistic perspective. “The idea,” says Alice Agogino, a mechanical engineering professor and one of the course’s instructors, “is to combine engineering technologies with economic, business and impact analysis.” 

The YouTube video is at: http://bit.ly/deveng-cookstove

BEST Lab Paper Featured in ASME Journal of Mechanical Design: Machine Learning Algorithms for Recommending Design Methods

Selected as a feature article in the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design. Designers use specific methods to discern people’s needs and how to best create products or services that meet those needs. Choosing precisely the right method for a given problem is extremely difficult: it requires a deep understanding of the nature of the problem, knowledge of the vast array of design methods, and years of experience. This paper demonstrates that by collecting expert experience in the form of case studies, machine learning algorithms can help new designers pick better design methods and understand how methods are related to one another. Specifically, we show that looking at which methods designers use together can be more informative than just looking at the content of the method itself. In addition, you can use counts of which methods are used together to automatically cluster methods into groups that agree with human ratings; this means that you can study many more methods than could be done manually.


Matrix of Methods

Defining Development Engineering

Photo of Alice Agogino near Blum Center

Defining development engineering: Berkeley faculty and students are creating a new academic field
, Berkeley Engineering Magazine, Sep. 12, 2014. "Development engineering is a new interdisciplinary field that integrates engineering with economics and business, energy and natural resource development and social sciences," says Alice Agogino, a professor of mechanical engineering. "The goal is to create, implement and evaluate new technologies to benefit people living in poverty in developing regions and low-income areas in the U.S." Also see the Sept. 16, 2014 Daily Cal article: Campus interdisciplinary program brings innovative perspective to engineering doctoral students.

First Launch of Black Carbon-Sensing Platform In India

Photo of Danny Wilson and Indian Team

BEST Labbers Danny Wilson and Julien Caubel are working on a black carbon-sensing platform that will contain a low cost nano aethalometer and be launched from high altitude balloons.The first successful launch of the black carbon-sensing balloon platform (without the aethalomiter as it is still under development) was launched from IIT Kanpur this last Thursday, September 25th. The project was developed in partnership with Professor Sachi Tripathi's lab at IIT Kanpur and the other team members from India are: Abhinav Saksena and Advait Kumar at IIT Delhi and Vipul Lalchandi at IIT Kanpur. Danny Wilson is in India for a year funded by a Fulbright-NehruFellowship. See video of the launch.

Successful Demo of the Tensegrity Rapid Prototyping Kit at NASA Headquarters

Photo of BEST Tensegrity at NASA Headquarters Photo of BEST Tensegrity at NASA Headquarters
Vytas SunSpiral and Adrian Agogino (NASA Ames)
and Ron Turner (NASA HQ)at NASA Headquarters.
Jason E. Derleth, Jay Falker and Ron Turner (NASA HQ)


The NASA Ames SUPERball Tensegrity Tensegrity project was the first team to ever bring and operate a robot during a review session at NASA Headquarters (9-26-2014) under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. The robot was none other than the UC Berkeley BEST (Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities) Rapid Prototyping Kit. To demonstrate that the concept could be packed into tight space travel, our robot was carried by Adrian Agogino in a suitcase in packed luggage on his flight to D.C.  Our kit was also demostrated at DARPA headquarters. They had to collapse it partially to fit through the X-ray macine, demonstrating that our quick release rod ends were fast and easy to operate.

BEST Lab Tour  A video of the UC Berkeley part of the research was also featured with BEST lab members describing their contributions to the research. Check out our new YouTube channel addition.

BEST Labber Colin Ho Helps Design Technology for the Capacity Dance Performance Synaptic Motion

Capacity Dance photo with Tensegrity Capacity Dance photo with Tensegrity

From the Capacitor website: What does the act of creativity look like? San Francisco’s internationally acclaimed science and technology dance company Capacitor tackles this question head-on in the world premiere of “Synaptic Motion.” Conceived and choreographed by Artistic Director Jodi Lomask, this multi-sensory experience is informed by brain scans taken at the UCSF Neuroscape Lab to capture the mind during the act of choreography. See video of Jodi Lomask and go behind the scenes with her to learn how the dancers, designers, and scientists collaborated to create Synaptic Motion.

Media collaborators Mary Franck, Wesley Grubb, and Johan Bichel Lindegaard have transformed this data and more into an immersive visualization of the creative process to the sound of Danish composer Toni Martin Dobrzanski and in a set designed by Erik Walker with lighting FX by William Brinkert. Travel through a larger-than-life neural forest experiencing memories, future self projections, and mirror neurons in action, while Capacitor’s unique cast of dancers, acrobats, contortionists and aerialists challenge notions of the creative process. Let them take you on a trip through multiple states of mind utilizing tensegrity apparatus.
Colin Ho provides a pre-show talk on the technology behind the performance before the matinee show on Sunday, Sep. 21. Highlights of the performance can be found on this video.


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

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