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.

BEST Lab in Computerworld and on IDG.tv: New robot bounces, could replace rovers on NASA missions

The Tensegrity Robot Team brought our UC Berkeley prototypes to the Silicon Valley Robot Block Party last week for National Robotics Week  and were filmed by Computerworld and IDG.tv. The accompanying video posted on IDG.tv talks about the UC Berkeley contributions and features images of BEST Labbers and MEng students. "Researchers at NASA and the University of California at Berkeley are developing a robot that's robust enough to be dropped directly onto planets and go straight to work."

Image from Video of tensegrity robot and team BEST lab team photo

Prototypes from ME110 (Introduction to Product Development) were popular with the children. The bottom left figure shows the K-8 prototype and the bottom right the High School version.

BEST lab team photo HS version of tensegrity robot

Tensegrity Robots in the News: Wired Magazine, the Economist, Smithsonian and IEEE Spectrum

Drew Sabelhaus and SUPERball Tensegrity Robot at NASA Ames Tensegrity Team photo
Andrew Sabelhaus, working in conjunction with researchers from UC Berkeley’s BEST Lab, demonstrate the SUPERball robot. BEST tensegrity robot teams: Spherical and spine structures.


In celebration of our great news coverage during the first week of March 2015 (summarized below), the Fung Capstone tensegrity robotic teams posed for a group photo with their mentors in the BEST Lab (upper right photo).

  • The Economist, March 7, 2015: Our tensegrity robot was highlighted in The Economist (Technology Quarterly, March 7-13th 2015, pp. 10-12) - Microgravity Rovers: A lightness of being. Quote: Although more jerky than graceful, little traction is needed resulting in a “punctuated rolling motion”, says Alice Agogino, a NASA-funded researcher working on such a project at the University of California, Berkeley. The rovers’ instruments and power supply would be suspended in the centre of the structure.
  • Wired Magazine, March 5, 2015: A Robot that Collapses Under Pressure (In a Good Way). Quote from the Wired Magazine article: Alice Agogino, the head of the Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities Lab at the University of California-Berkeley (and Adrian’s mom), is currently working on a tensegrity robot inspired by the structure and flexibility of the human spine, in order to walk up stairs more easily. Similar bots could also have applications in search and rescue operations that require nimble movement.

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. Kim, 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.

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