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.

Euiyoung Kim Receives 2013-14 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award

Photo of Euiyoung Kim

Please congratuate BEST Labber Euiyoung Kim for receiving the 2013-14 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award,sponsored by the GSI Teaching and Resource Center, in recognition of his exceptional achievements as a teacher. The GSI Teaching and Resource Center will host a ceremony and reception in his honor from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Award recipients will also receive a monetary award sponsored by the Dean of the Graduate Division to applaud outstanding GSIs.

Q&A with CS Ed Reformer and PhD Candidate Omoju Miller

BEST Labber Omoju Miller in the Berkeley Byte News. Excerpt: "Omoju Miller is a computer science education reformer. She is also a PhD candidate under Dr. Alice Agogino, a member of the CS10 family, a Technology Portfolio Manager at Google.org and a mother. This is how she fights for her passions"

Tensegrity Robotics Project and ME110 2013 Projects Featured in Wired Magazine

ME110 Tensegrity Home Health Care Team ME110 Tensegrity Protection

NASA’s Latest Robot: A Rolling Tangle of Rods That Can Take a Beating, Wired Magazine, Feb. 26, 2014 (also Wired UK, Nasa's new space robot moves like tumbleweed, Feb. 27, 2014). In addition to the research collaboration with NASA Ames, the article refers to our tensegrity ME110 projects in Spring 2013. Members of the Tensegrity Protection team were Andrew Deng, Grant Paulson, Jon Saltz and Anton Savinov. Members of the Tensegrity Health Care team were Seth Macfarland, Stanley Liu, Adrew Kim, John Wilcox and Josh Stroud. The graduate student mentor was Andrew (Drew) Sabelhaus. See more on the Tensegrity Robotics project website. Also news on the Tensegrity Robotics viral video and members of the graduate MEng Fung Leadership team.

Excerpt: It’s fun to think about how this concept could be applied outside the realm of space exploration. Drawing on natural systems that adjust and adapt to environments is fascinating, and one that’s already being explored in fields like architecture and art. While teaching a class at UC Berkeley, collaborator Alice Agogino asked students to come up with 50 potential applications for tensegrity robots and to rank them according to how useful they might one day be.

“The two highest fits were in home health care and the military,” he says. “Two extreme applications.” The point being, by its very nature a tensegrity robot is able to be both sturdy and resilient while still being gentle enough to interact with sick people. “This is really at the heart of what we’re getting at,” says SunSpiral. “Using a system that’s much more adaptable to its environment.”

New layer...

Tensegrity Robotics Video from IEEE Spectrum Has Gone Viral

BEST Lab collaborators Adrian Agogino and Vytas SunSpiral from the Intelligent Systems Division of the NASA Ames Research Center  were recently interviewed by IEEE Spectrum. The article (NASA's Squishable 'Super Ball Bot' Could Explore Titanand YouTube video were released on December 23, 2013. Since then the article has been propogated world-wide and the video has gone viral with over 330,000 views and still counting. Google has tracked over 60 articles on this story as well. This video is a mash-up by slate video that starts with an old film of the original super ball.  More on this project and our collaboration at  BEST (Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities).

UC Berkeley doctoral students working on the tensegrity robotic research are: Andrew (Drew) Sabelhaus and Kyunam Kim. Five MEng students – Justino Calangi (Advanced Controls, ME), Yangxin Chen (Product Design, ME), Eric Cheng-yu Hong (Visual Computing Graphics, EECS), Yuejia (Margaret) Liu (Computational Manufacturing, ME) and Dizhou Lu (Product Design, ME) are working on the project by designing, building the mechanical components and developing a tensegrity kit for simulation and testing of actuation and control strategies. Deaho Moon is an undergraduate researcher who has been working on the mechanical testing and drop tests.

Kyunam Kim,Yangxin Chen,Yuejia (Margaret) Liu and Justino Calangi with Professor Alice Agogino at Fung Institute poster session, December 2013.


This research is on a revolutionary soft robotics concept that integrates biomimetics and tensegrity structures. Tensegrity robots are composed of purely tensile and compressive components (cables and rods). We are exploring co-robot applications (where humans and robots work as partners) since they are unlikely to harm their environment or human users. The application areas we are pursuing include space exploration, home health care and search & rescue.

Simulated image of super ball bot

Mockup of space exploration application

The simulated images (above) and animation (below left) are for the Super Ball Bots application envisioned for space applications where they could deployed and bounce to a landing before moving and exploring the surface. See video of NASA collaborators Adrian Agogino and Vytas SunSpiral explain the structural advantages of tensegrity robots in this article and video (below, right): NASA's Squishable 'Super Ball Bot' Could Explore Titan, IEEE Spectrum, December 2013.

Related News and Publications

Human-Powered Gym Installed: See News and Videos

Photo of Maha Haji and Kimberly Lau Photo of HPG Leadership Team Professor Agogino talking about the HPG

News article and video published in Innovations, Research and News from uC Berkeley, Nov. 2012. Initiated by Maha Haji (ME '12) and doctoral student Kimberly Lau four years ago, the Human-Powered Gym (HPG) team aims to convert human power workouts to electricity at fitness facilities. An elliptical trainer and a stationary bike and were installed at the Recreational Sports Facility (RSF) earlier this month. See more at: The Hunt for a High-Energy, Low-Wattage Workout (YouTube video) and the 2010 ASME paper Human Power Generation in Fitness Facilities (2010 ASME paper). Also see Nov. 24, 2013 BerkeleyByte:  HPG team installs ellipticals at the RSF.

Vivek Rao in Research Team Named Odebrecht Finalists

Vivek Rao (Mechanical Engineering), Henry Kagey (Civil & Environmental Engineering) and David Campbell (Architecture) were recognized as a top-three finalist (placing second) in the 2013 Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development competition. Their project is titled “Solar Photocatalytic Greywater Recycling in Building Facades.” Professor Alice Agogino was Vivek's MS advisor for research titled "Building Facades for Solar Water Treatment: Design and Characterization of a Vertically-Integrated Multistep (VIMS) Solar Photocatalytic Water Treatment Reactor". Vivek has also served as a lecturer and coach in Agogino's new product development classes. The goal of this NSF-sponsored project (PIs: Professors Slav Hermanowicz, Maria-Paz Gutierrez and Luke Lee) is to develop photocatalytic water treatment reactors for use in building facades. 

The Darfur Stove Project wins 2013 Tech Award!

  Congrats to Danny Wilson and the Darfur Stove team for winning one of the 2013 Tech Awards! The 2013 Tech Awards were presented at the Tech Museum of Innovation, Santa Clara California. They award efforts to use technology to benefit humanity. The Darfur Stoves Project, as part of the non-profit organization Potential Energy, originated as an effort at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to develop fuel-efficient stoves. These stoves reduced the need for women in the Darfur camps to forage for wood, where they were exposed to violence. Learn more at the link below.  The project’s efforts are now expanding to other regions.  See video commissioned by the Tech Museum of Innovation.

BEST Labbers Win Reviewers' Favourite Award at ICED13

Photo of certificate

BEST Labbers win "Reviewers' Favourite Award" at the 2013 International Conference on Engineering Design. The award is in recognition of a paper that was uniformly rated excellent (top 10%) by all reviewers. Euiyoung Kim was the lead author (with Prof. Alice Agogino and undergraduate researchers Victoria Stanton Kocsik and Cecile Eren Basnage) on the paper titled: Human-Centric Study of Digital-Paper Transitions: Framing Design Opportunity Spaces. The paper reported on human-centered design research with our Samsung Next Digital project. Abstract: Although digital devices have their own unique features that differentiate them from other tangible types of resources for reading, writing and sketching, a majority of people still prefer traditional paper media as it provides better user experiences in many aspects: readability, portability, ease of making annotations, shared reading, tactile sensory experiences, etc. This paper identifies barriers and opportunities for paper-related features based on human-centric design research directed towards the overarching goal of providing insights for finding disruptive opportunity spaces. In framing our design research, we define journeys that tangible and digital media follow – from original form, transitions and final form. Our target populations are college students and professionals in diverse majors and work environments. Based on insights from our design research, we present personas and case studies.

Helping Dissenters Evade Foreign Eavesdropping - Launch of UC Berkeley Rangzen Project

Yahel Ben-David is working with UC Berkeley researchers to help activists avoid snooping by foreign governments

Yahel Ben-David featured in San Francisco Chronicle article on his new nonprofit startup Rangzen: Helping dissenters evade foreign eavesdropping. Rangzen develops "technology to allow citizens of repressive regimes to communicate freely, independent of government or corporate-controlled infrastructure, while providing strong anonymity guarantees". I'm honored to be on Rangzen's advisory board. More at Rangzen's website. Yahel has also worked with the CARES project with Yael Perez (his wife) and Ryan Shelby at the Pinoleville Pomo Nation.

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