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.

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

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.

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