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.

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.


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

BEST Tensegrity Robot Pictured in Popular Science & Discovery: This Weird Tumbleweed Robot Might Change Planetary Exploration

Photo of UC Berkeley tensegrity robot Photo of UC Berkeley tensegrity robot Photo of UC Berkeley tensegrity robot

A rolling sphere of rods and cables being developed by NASA takes a lickin' and keeps on ticking': A recent Popular Science article discusses our tensegrity robot project with NASA Ames. The photo is of UC Berkeley's Tensegrity Robot: constructed from our rapid prototyping kit (photo taken by Kyunam Kim). Professor Alice M. Agogino and her students are working with NASA Ames to develop  "a low-cost, easy-to-use tensegrity robotics kits to make it easy for people to put together new tensegrity robots, for students and researchers to tinker around with them," Vytas SunSpiral from NASA Ames says. "We want to get people around the world exploring this revolutionary concept to help break new ground."

See the video on the Discovery Channel featuring the project, with ME undergraduate students  Aliakbar Toghyan, Borna Dehghani, Laqshya Taneja, and Ian Matthew Krase, graduate students  Andrew Sabelhaus and  Kyunam Kim and recent ME graduate  Deaho Moon.

Alice is Awardee and Keynote Speaker at Assemblymember Nancy Skinner's 2014 STEM Women of the Year Ceremony

Proud to be awardee and keynote speaker at Assemblymember Nancy Skinner's 2014 STEM Women of the Year Ceremony. Photos (left to right): Award, Keynote Lecture, Omoju Miller, me and Sohyeong Kim.

BEST Labbers Meet With Alice Waters at Chez Panisse's Edible School Yard Office


Arianne Agogino Gieringer, me, BEST Labber Sohyeong Kim, Alice Waters and Edible School Yard team behind Chez Panisse. Showing Alice Waters data used in Sohyeong's dissertation. Written up as a Berkeley-Haas case study:Chez Panisse: Building an Open Innovation Ecosystem and also in the Harvard Business Review , 2014. Also to appear in the California Management Review, Vol. 56, No. 4, Summer 2014.

Larson-Juhl Sponsors Innovation Design Challenge at UC Berkeley's Innovation Through Design Thinking

Photo of team with sponsor

Larson-Juhl sponsored a design tournament challenge in UC Berkeley's Innovation Through Design Thinking course in Fall 2013. The course is part of the MEng concentration in Product Design in Mechanical Engineering and the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership.

The top two teams (Sports Fanatics and Mood Frames) had an opportunity to present their ideas to Larson-Juhl's executive management. Larson-Juhl is now moving forward with a modified version of the Sports Fanatics concept using NFC technology. They are sending out award certificates to each winning team member in June 2014. 

To identify new opportunities in the picture framing industry, Larson-Juhl recently sponsored “Framing Innovation,” a Design Thinking challenge for students at University of California, Berkeley. Doug Rozenboom, Larson-Juhl’s senior vice-president, Global Merchandising & Product Development, sponsored a tournament in a graduate class titled “Innovation Through Design Thinking,” taught by Alice Agogino (Mechanical Engineering) and Alan Van Pelt (Design Strategy Consultant). The class was instructed to identify new innovation opportunities in the framing industry by studying potential new consumers and creating concepts to best reach them. 

“At Larson-Juhl, we’re always looking to think outside of the frame, and working with the students of UC Berkeley was a great way for us to gain new innovative insights into our industry and the many possibilities of what is to come,” shares Rozenboom.

Six student teams researched specific customer segments, conducted interviews, built prototypes, and presented their ideas to Rozenboom and their professors. Judging the competition, Rozenboom selected the top two concepts. Those teams went on to present their innovative creations to Larson-Juhl’s executive team, which then selected the winning design team Sports Fanatics of Dizhou Lu, Toby Ricco, Logan Van Engelhoven, Chris Gotianun, and Hoseok Lee (photo above, left to right). The Runner-Up Mood Frames (Dian Dong, Katy Van Lieshout, Chen Zhuang and Theerapat Yangyuenthanasan) team's concept is also being considered for a new product.

Larson-Juhl will incorporate aspects of the winning team’s design concept into upcoming products. “We strive to find the next generation of products for customers. These students are tomorrow’s consumers, and collaborating with them gives us a great opportunity to accomplish our goal,” Rozenboom said.

Tensegrity Robotics Rapid Prototyping Team Filmed at NASA Ames by the Discovery Channel

At the end of May 2014, the Discovery Channel took footage and interviewed the tensegrity team for a feature on our Tensegrity Robotics Rapid Prototyping Kit.

Team at NASA Ames conducting research and preparing
for the filming.

Testing the tensegrity robot in NASA Ames' Mars
landscape mock-up site.

BEST Labber Ann McKenna Named Director of the Fulton Schools of College of Technology & Innovation at ASU's Polytechnic Campus

Photo of Ann McKenna
Ann McKenna has been named the director of the sixth school within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
 With the new reorganization Ann has gone from department chair to a director, overseeing multiple degree programs, faculty and staff (100 faculty, 4,0000 students and over 10 degree programs).

Excerpt: "She has served as professor and chair of the department of Engineering and Computing Systems at the College of Technology and Innovation since 2012.“We are excited to welcome Ann to the Fulton Schools as school director on ASU’s Polytechnic campus,” said Paul Johnson, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “After an extensive search, Ann’s experience, her vision for the school, and the support she received from her colleagues proved to be a perfect combination of credentials for the role of school director.”“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the sixth school on ASU’s Polytechnic campus,” said McKenna. “The Fulton Schools are experiencing significant growth and our portfolio of program offerings is now one of the largest and most interdisciplinary in the country. I am excited to join the leadership team at the Fulton Schools as we continue to evolve and expand.”Beyond her role as school director, McKenna’s scholarly research includes the cognitive and social processes of design; the role of adaptive expertise in design thinking and innovation; and the mechanisms and policies that influence the impact and diffusion of educational innovations. She has twice been the recipient of the ASEE best overall paper award (1998 and 2011), as well as the recipient of the outstanding paper award from the IEEE/ASEE Frontiers in Education (FIE) conference (1997). Her work in the area of design education has been nationally recognized by being a best paper finalist for three consecutive years, 2009, 2010, and 2011 in the Design in Engineering Education Division of ASEE (winning the award in 2011). McKenna works across the disciplinary lines of engineering, education and design and has published in diverse disciplinary venues including Science, the Journal of Engineering Education, IEEE Computer, ASME Journal of Mechanical Design, and Teaching in Higher Education.Prior to joining ASU, McKenna served as a program officer for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Division of Undergraduate Education and was on the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University. She currently serves as a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Engineering Education, the leading research journal in the field of engineering education.McKenna earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s in mechanical engineering from Drexel University and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley."

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