BEST Seminars 2013

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Friday, December 13, 1-2:00 pm, BEST Lab (230 Hesse Hall)

Please join us for the final 2013 seminar of the year and toast the end of the semester at 1 pm. We have two back-to-back speakers. First will be Torey Kocsik  (who worked on the Samsung project) who will speak on: “Eco-Stove Analysis and Suggested Design Changes for the Newton-San Juan del Sur Sister City Project”. I’m hoping she will show us a picture of two from her trip to Tierra del Fuego as well.

Next will be a presentation from the JustMilk project. They hope to begin contextual studies in South Africa to help them gain a better understanding of the usability of their health product design.


Friday, December 6, 4:00 pm, BEST Lab (230 Hesse Hall): Rex Ren “Predicting Design Inspiration: Recommendation Algorithms for Connecting Ideas in Design Challenges”

Abstract: When solving challenging design problems, online design communities are a scalable way of producing many high quality ideas; these communities create on the order of thousands of ideas for a given challenge. Part of this strength lies in the ability of designers to view previously submitted ideas and use those as inspiration for new ideas. However, at this scale, it time prohibitive for individuals to read through thousands of ideas, and thus designers miss out on the exact benefit they create. To address this problem, this paper formulates design inspiration as a link prediction problem. This allow us to produce algorithms that can predict which previous ideas are likely to inspire a new idea, narrowing down the space of ideas down to a number that can be effectively searched by an individual. We demonstrate competitive ROC performance and describe which features of ideas are the most and least important for determining whether or not an idea will be built upon. Specifically, the graph centrality of the idea, the time it was submitted,  and the textual and thematic similarity all play an important role. In contrast, social features, such as who submitted the idea or how often two designers communicated with one another, had low predictive power. Ultimately, this work allows online communities of designers to efficiently search through existing ideas to find the right inspiration, unlocking the full idea generation potential of these communities.


Friday, November 8, 2:30-4:00 pm, BEST Lab (230 Hesse Hall): Practice Quals

Danny Wilson will start with a talk on “Custom Ultra-Low Cost Sensors for Rigorous Large-Scale Analysis of Cookstove Usage”

Omoju Miller will then speak on “Towards Culturally Responsive CS Education”


Thursday, August 22, 2:00-3:00 pm, BEST Lab (230 Hesse Hall): Design Informatics: Leveraging Crowds to Create Better Designs, Mark Fuge

Abstract: What makes a particular design good? How do we make new designs better?
The field of design theory and methods revolves around finding answers to these questions. For my dissertation, I am proposing a methodology that addresses those questions by using data-driven techniques to study and reason over large sets of human generated designs – an approach I refer to as Design Informatics. I intend to demonstrate how probabilistic inference over large databases of designs can extract why certain designs are better than others and shed light on the principles or processes that are used to construct new designs. This approach is motivated by the rich and growing area of crowd-based design, in which Open Innovation and Crowd-sourcing are providing large amounts of human-generated design data. I argue that this domain is uniquely positioned to be studied using Design Informatics.

To validate my approach, I will present a series of studies that show how probabilistic inference over design data can be used to efficiently infer properties about a set of designs: What makes a design attractive? Creative? Innovative? What design processes should I use in a given situation? What are the fundamental rules or principles that went into designing something? How do you work with a group of people to design things better? By viewing design under the framework of probabilistic inference, I can apply the notions of computational tractability and approximation to study under which conditions Design Informatics can be successfully used for studying a variety of design areas, including Design Features, Design Processes, Design Environments, and Design Patterns.

Tuesday, August 27, 1:00-3:00 pm,  230 SDH, Jessica Vechikal on Human-Centered Design for Poverty Alleviation and Increasing Self-Efficacy

This practice quals will cover two phases of Jessica’s research Phase 1: Characterize and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of and the International Development Design Summit (IDDS) distinct approaches for HCD for poverty alleviation.  Determine what factors influence success and why. Suggest pedagogical improvements. Phase 2: Evaluate the effects of participating in HCD on students and community members. The case studies being compared are IDDS and CARES  (Community Assessment of Renewable Energy and Sustainability). Determine which factors influence these effects. Identify possible mechanisms for how these factors may result in these effects. Suggest pedagogical improvements.

Friday, August 2, 1:00-1:30 pm, BEST Lab (230 Hesse Hall): Human-Centric Study of Digital-Paper Transitions: Framing Design Opportunity Spaces, Euiyoung Kim

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.

Wednesday, July 31, 1:30 pm: Mark Fuge will give a practice talk for his upcoming design conference at 1:30pm in the Berkeley Institute of Design. We’ll be joined at 2:00 pm by three visitors from Japan: Prof. Shuichi Fukuda, Prof. Yuji Okita, and Prof. Hiroshi Suzuki afterwards for a discussion of emotional engineering and design education.

Title: Automatically Inferring Metrics for Design Creativity
Abstract: Measuring design creativity is crucial to evaluating the effectiveness of idea generation methods. Historically, there has been a divide between easily-computable metrics, which are often based on arbitrary scoring systems, and human judgement metrics, which accurately reflect human opinion but rely on the expensive collection of expert ratings. This research bridges this gap by introducing a probabilistic model that computes repeatable creativity metrics trained on expert data. Focusing on metrics for variety, a combination of submodular functions and logistic regression generalizes existing metrics, accurately recovering several published metrics as special cases and illuminating a space of new metrics for design creativity. When tasked with predicting which of two sets of concepts has greater variety, our model matches two commonly used metrics to 96% accuracy on average. In addition, using submodular functions allows this model to efficiently select the highest variety set of concepts when used in a design synthesis system.

Title: Why Emotional Engineering?
Abstract: Man is known as Homo Faber (Man makes a tool). But why does man make a tool? It is because man would like to realize his dream. Animals can use natural objects as tools. But animals live for now. Man can see the future and can have a dream. Engineering is a tool to realize our dreams. But we forgot to come back to the basics. We are developing products and services based on tools, which are nothing other than technical inventions. We forgot why we invented these tools. Today is known as an age of diversification and great changes. That’s because human are looking for more diversified dreams and situations change very frequently and extensively so that if products work as our customers expect or as their dream come true, then our customers will be very happy. It is none other than creating lifestyle which best fits each customer’s preferences and needs.

Emotional engineering is a tool to let our customers feel their dreams come true. They will be satisfied enough, although the product and services might not be the best or optimized in the traditional rational way of thinking. Emotional Engineering not only serves to let the customer feel their dreams come true, but it also serves to generate their trust in our products and services. As the products and services are varying very much from case to case, it becomes increasingly difficult for customers to put trust in our products and services. This is nothing other than developing corporate brand. Companies develop product after product but if we could establish corporate brand, our customers put trust in upcoming products and services, so they feel their expectations are satisfied and feel very much happy.

Wednesday, June 19 noon at BEST (230 Hesse): Ingenuity Lab: Making and Engineering through Design Challenges at a Science Center, Jennifer Wang

Abstract: This paper details the study of the Ingenuity Lab, an engineering maker space at the Lawrence Hall of Science. The space is open to drop-in visitors on weekends, serving mostly family groups with ages ranging from infant to elderly. The majority of children are between the ages of four and ten. A monthly open-ended engineering design challenge and theme is presented to visitors, along with materials consisting of low-cost consumables and/or reusable electronics. Visitors design, build, and test solutions to the challenges. In particular, this study aims to assess the program’s impact on its visitors with regards to visitors’ perceptions of engineering and identity with engineering, as well as visitors’ confidence in and agency to do engineering. Three challenges over three months were studied via visitor number and time tracking and post-surveys. One of two practice talks for ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Conference.

Wednesday, June 19 noon at BEST (230 Hesse): A Follow-Up Study of a First-Year Leadership and Service Learning Module, Farzana Ansari

Abstract: A five-week module focusing on leadership and service learning was implemented as part of a first-year engineering course. This module presented mechanisms for developing professional skills and provided hands-on application of these skills through a K-12 service learning project at a science museum. The other modules offered in the course emphasized traditional engineering topics. This longitudinal study focuses on the students from the course as they enter their third year in engineering. One of two practice talks for ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) Conference.

Monday, June 10 noon-2 pm at BiD: A Comparison of Two Transdisciplinary Human- Centered Design Approaches for Poverty Alleviation, Jessica Vechakul

Abstract: This descriptive study characterizes two transdisciplinary human- centered design approaches for creating novel products or services for poverty alleviation. Transdisciplinary design involves the integration of skills or knowledge from multiple disciplines in one holistic process. The term discipline includes academic fields of study that are taught in universities, as well as specialized expertise that are developed through life experience. Two pioneering organizations were selected to be exemplary case studies based on their high regard and influence within the design industry, social sector, and academia. This paper highlights similarities and differences between the design thinking approach practiced by (a nonprofit design consultancy) and the Creative Capacity Building approach developed by the International Development Design Summit (an educational organization hosting annual innovation conferences).’s teams of professionals (e.g., industrial designers or business strategists) develop innovative products and services for implementation by partners serving low-income communities. IDDS teaches people from all walks of life (e.g., villagers, mechanics, students, teachers, doctors, economists, priests, masons, and artists) to create technologies and launch enterprises for poverty alleviation. IDDS believes this intentional eclecticism is at the heart of innovation, and that exposing non-designers to design expands capabilities for general problem solving. The objective is not to determine which approach is better, but to determine what can be learned from about designing with established organizations, and from IDDS about teaching budding innovators to be grassroots change agents. One of three practice talks today. This one is for the International Workshop on The Future of Transdisciplinary Design (TFTD13).

Monday, June 10 noon-2 pm at BiD: Information and Communication Technologies as a Bridge between Global Designers and Local Users, Yael Perez

Abstract: This research uses an international design competition to evaluate the influence of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on the design process within a transdisciplinary design project. Specifically, it will focus on conditions when cultural gaps exist between the designers and the local community. While clearly ICT has been influencing global processes in the design profession, it is unclear whether current ICTs can bridge the gap between professional and non-professional stakeholders within a design project and across large cultural differences. Through an international design competition with a Native American Nation in Northern California, the design processes of distant designers who had an ICT-mediated experience and local designers who had an additional in-person experience are compared and the influence of ICT on both groups is evaluated. Through this case study it was found that in settings with wide cultural gaps between designers and users a special set of ICTs, representing the local community of users and their conceptions, can overcome transdisciplinary and cultural gaps. The importance of a transdisciplinary design strategy within the context of place-making is highlighted through the process. One of three practice talks today. This one is for the International Workshop on The Future of Transdisciplinary Design (TFTD13).

Monday, June 10 noon-2 pm at BiD: Human-Centric User Research to Identify Disruptive Opportunities in Convergent Paper and Digital Use, Euiyoung Kim and Alice Agogino

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 research project has identified barriers and opportunities for paper-like features based on various human-centered design methods and explores new product concepts driven by this research. Based on this user research, we will be providing conceptual design prototypes along with use scenarios in the final presentation. Our human-centric research methods have been deployed in order to develop a deep understanding of the human experience along the entire product journey – going beyond what is possible with existing user-centered design methods. One of three practice talks today. This one is for our design review with Samsung.

Tuesday, May 21, 2:00 pm BEST talk: User-centric and model predictive smart lighting retrofit system

This is a practice talk for the national competiton called MaxTech and Beyond 2013. We are the only UC Berkeley team in the competition. Abstract: Wireless sensor network enabled intelligent lighting system that optimize indoor lighting for individual user preference and energy savings was demonstrated by a former PhD student of BEST Lab (Yao-Jung Wen) and is currently a well recognized technology. However, the current cost of wireless sensor platforms for intelligent lighting systems is beyond the affordability of most small and medium commercial and residential buildings, that has limited the market penetration of these systems. The goal of our project is to widen the adoption of intelligent lighting systems by reducing the cost of such wireless sensor network platforms by 50% through guided minimal sensor deployment and by leveraging true plug and play nature of these platforms. The guided minimal sensor deployment algorithm is used to replace actual sensing by piece-wise linear regression and Gaussian process models of indoor light distribution which we refer to as virtual sensor models.

Tuesday, May 14, noon, BiD talk: Revisiting Distributed Collaboration around Physical Representations: Digital Fabrication and Rubik’s Cubes

BEST Labber Lora Oehlberg is currently a Post-Doctoral researcher working with Wendy Mackay in the in|situ research group at INRIA Saclay. She will discuss her current research focus (see below) as well as general reflections on conducting research in France.

Abstract: Through digital fabrication, designers and makers can rapidly create physical representations of their digital designs. When designers in remote locations collaborate with one another, they can not only discuss digital design representations, but also ground their conversation in locally-fabricated physical representations of their designs. What happens to collaboration when experts are able to create a local copy of the physical object under discussion? Does the experts’ access to a local physical copy of the design help or hinder their ability to communicate? We conducted a study of pairs of expert and novice Rubik’s cube solvers to look at how task performance and novice attention is affected by the remote expert’s access to a physical representation. We also discuss planned sessions with expert-novice pairs of distributed digital fabricators.

Friday, May 10, 2:30-4:00 pm: BiD talk: Balancing Design and Technology to Tackle Global Grand Challenges

Abstract: There are many urgent problems facing the planet: a degrading environment, a healthcare system in crisis, and educational systems that are failing to produce creative, innovative thinkers to solven tomorrow’s problems. Technology influences behavior, and I believe when we balance it with revolutionary design, we can reduce a family’s energy and water use by 50%, double most people’s daily physical activity, and educate any child anywhere in the world to a level of proficiency on par with the planet’s best students. My research program tackles these grand challenges by using a new model of interdisciplinary research that takes a long view and encourages risk-taking and creativity. I will illustrate how we are addressing these grand challenges in our research by building systems that balance innovative user interfaces with novel activity inference technology. These systems have helped individuals stay fit, led families to be more sustainable in their everyday lives, and supported learners in acquiring second languages. I will also introduce the World Lab, a cross cultural institute that embodies my balanced approach to attack the world’s biggest problems today, while preparing the technology and design leaders of tomorrow.

Bio: James Landay is the Short-Dooley Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, specializing in human-computer interaction. He is the founder and co-director of the World Lab, a joint research and educational effort with Tsinghua University in Beijing. Prof. Landay is also the co-founder of the dub group at the University of Washington. From 2003 through 2006 he was also the Laboratory Director of Intel Labs Seattle, a university affiliated research lab exploring ubiquitous computing. His current research interests include Technology to Support Behavior Change, Demonstrational Interfaces, Mobile & Ubiquitous Computing, and User Interface Design Tools. He spent his 2009-2011 sabbatical at Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing, where he was also a Visiting Professor in the Computer Science Department of Tsinghua University. Landay received his BS in EECS from UC Berkeley in 1990 and MS and PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University in 1993 and 1996, respectively. His PhD dissertation was the first to demonstrate the use of sketching in user interface design tools. He was also the chief scientist and co-founder of NetRaker. In 1997 he joined the faculty in EECS at UC Berkeley, leaving as an Associate Professor in 2003. He was named to the ACM SIGCHI Academy in 2011. He currently serves on the NSF CISE Advisory Committee. More information can be found at

Friday, May 10, 1-2:00 pm: Bud Peters and Kevin Tee Give Talks on Design Informatics, BEST Lab

Speaker: Bud Peters
Title: Case-based Design Method Recommendation Systems

Abstract: We present a tool for designers that takes information about design problems and recommends design methods for solving them. Using data collected from IDEO’s HCDConnect project, we explore the most commonly used design methods and segment them by location and focus area. A statistical model is trained for predicting method relevance for novel design problems. Using a collaborative filtering algorithm that optimizes using stochastic gradient descent, the model achieves high levels of accuracy when compared against human recommendation benchmarks.

Speaker: Kevin Tee
Title: Network Science and Analysis in Collaborative Design Challenges

Abstract: The recent emergence of decentralized design challenges has ushered in new communities where users develop and collaborate on solutions to various design problems. This research focuses on understanding the relationship between users in these distributed networks, how they communicate and interact, and ultimately what distinguishes a good design from a great design within these communities. To investigate this problem, we analyze the network structure of these challenges in two realms: how users interact, and how concepts are built upon existing ideas. We identify the crucial elements for each user that ultimately measure how active they are in the community as well as for a single challenge. We find that the structure of both networks across challenges share a similar structure – a few nodes with large degree centrality and a large number of nodes with a small degree centrality on the periphery of the network. Applications of this work include creating methodologies to organize large groups in a decentralized setting to produce high quality designs and spur open innovation.

Friday, May 10, 11:00 am: Co-Designing Sustainable Communities: The Identification and Incorporation of Social Performance Metrics in Native American Sustainable Housing and Renewable Energy System

Ryan Shelby will give his dissertation talk in the 4th floor conference room of Sutardja Dai Hall (room 450, knock to get into locked area).

Committee Chair: Prof. Alice Agogino (ME)
Inside Members: Prof. Alastair T Iles (MCESD) and Prof. Lisa Pruitt (ME)
Outside Member: Prof. Daniel M Kammen (CE)

Abstract: This dissertation is a case study of a design research project with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation (PPN), a federal recognized, self-governing Native American tribe located near Ukiah, California, to determine their framework for sustainability framework, to identify their needs as it relates to their sustainability framework, and to co-design housing and renewable energy power systems to meet their needs.
The co-design methodological framework presented in this dissertation represents a discourse contribution in the areas of eliciting end user needs/metrics, situating sustainability knowledge bases, the role of citizens in the design of engineering systems, and community-based design approaches for the development of sustainable communities. This dissertation operationalizes the identification of a local sustainability framework(s), the identification of needs for sustainability, the identification of social performance metrics for sustainability, and the co-design of solutions to meet local sustainability framework (s) within the aforementioned discourse areas.

Friday, May 3, 2:30 pm in Berkeley Institute of Design (354 Hearst Mining): TinyTeRP: A Tiny Terrestrial Robotic Platform with Modular Sensing, Andrew Sabelhaus

The TinyTeRP is a small, low-cost, modular robotics platform used to study robot sensing and control in large numbers of miniature robots. A fully assembled TinyTeRP costs approximately $50, is 1.7 x 1.8 x 2 cm^3, and can move at speeds up to 50 cm/s. The robot is designed around a wheeled platform onto which different circuit boards can be stacked providing hardware modularity. The base module integrates a microcontroller with an 802.15.4 radio used for both sensing and communication between robots. An inertial sensing module used to improve single robot control is provided as an example of an additional sensing board. A simple ‘rendezvous’ algorithm using received signal strength indicator (RSSI) data from the radio illustrates a distributed control algorithm with the TinyTeRP.

Friday, May 3 1 pm in BEST Lab: Decoding as a Scaffold for Computational Thinking, Omooju Miller

Friday, April 26 1 pm in the Cal Design Lab: Workshop on Business Models

This design workshop on business models will be run by two Cal Alumni:

  • Gabe Cohn prides himself in creating elegant solutions to complex problems, and mixing creativity with empirical data to produce results that exceed his customers’ expectations. He launched Empirical Design, an engineering services firm geared toward assisting technology companies in the Bay Area to bring new products to market. Prior to this venture, Gabe worked as a product design engineer with Argyle Design in Berkeley, a consultancy specializing in commercial and consumer electronics.
  • Nicole Ballin considers herself a social entrepreneur on training wheels. She started a sustainability venture called Refill Revolution and was largely considered a failure by Nicole and her co-founders when the venture failed to raise funding before the team graduated in 2010. Much to everyone’s surprise, Refill was given a second lease on life when it was acquired by True2o in 2012. After graduation Nicole joined the founding team of UpEnergy, a social enterprise that distributes clean energy appliances in the developing world. UpEnergy now supports a team of 20 employees and has sold over 20,000 cookstoves in Uganda. Nicole is a 2013 Unreasonable Institute Fellow and founder of the Last Mile Distribution Bay Area group.

Friday, April 26 noon: TinyTeRP: A Tiny Terrestrial Robotic Platform with Modular Sensing by Andrew Sabelhaus

The TinyTeRP is a small, low-cost, modular robotics platform used to study robot sensing and control in large numbers of miniature robots. A fully assembled TinyTeRP costs approximately $50, is 1.7 x 1.8 x 2 cm^3, and can move at speeds up to 50 cm/s. The robot is designed around a wheeled platform onto which different circuit boards can be stacked providing hardware modularity. The base module integrates a microcontroller with an 802.15.4 radio used for both sensing and communication between robots. An inertial sensing module used to improve single robot control is provided as an example of an additional sensing board. A simple ‘rendezvous’ algorithm using received signal strength indicator (RSSI) data from the radio illustrates a distributed control algorithm with the TinyTeRP.

Friday, April 19 noon: Sustainability at a National Lab, John Elliott, LBNL

This is a CITRIS i4Energy talk to be held in 250 Sutardja Dai Hall.

Friday, April 12 noon: Yoon Jeong Jung, Design of a Low Profile Lower Extremity Exoskeleton

Abstract. Walking at least 30 minutes a day is recommended by doctors for long-term positive health effects and studies have proven that too much sitting is risky even for those who exercise regularly1-2. However, more than a quarter million people in the United States alone become helpless every year, being paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries3. Once they lose their ability to walk and stand upright, they have to rely on wheelchairs. Due to the nature of the human body, prolonged sitting in a wheelchair can cause many kinds of secondary injuries. Moreover, the patient’s reduced mobility often brings negative effects to their social life4. The goal of this study is to develop a new technology that enables paralyzed patients to get out of the wheelchair, stand upright, walk, and to achieve independence in their daily lives. Here, I discuss the design of the lower limb exoskeleton device, and the interactions among the designer, users, and the device. This device is designed to have as low a profile as possible to increase usability and user’s acceptance. The device has been tested by three paraplegic test pilots with different levels of injuries, and evaluated to be an effective method for rehabilitation. The device also has shown to increase one’s mobility as the user gets accustomed to it. It should also be noted that this technology has the potential to help with mobility of non-injured users, such as elderly people, which is a growing population in this aging society. Therefore, for future studies, it will be necessary to further optimize the exoskeleton device to meet the needs of a diverse group of potential users and test under various situations in order to maximize the impact of this beneficial technology.

Friday, April 5, 6:00 pm: Erin Inglish’s Banjo Concert Benefit for Berkeley’s Engineers for a Sustainable World, 240 Bechtel

flyer for concert album cover

One new album (A Melody So Sweet). One Bicycle. One banjo. One Month. 1000 miles. Erin Inglish received her BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley and has just produced a new CD and Kickstarter venture. JOIN US in celebration of Earth Month 2013 by joining us for Erin Inglish’s Earth*BikeBanjo 2013 Tour & Album Release! Erin is touring – with her banjo – by bicycle along the coast of California almost 1000 miles from Arcata down to San Diego over the entire month of April, playing scheduled gigs in the evenings and visiting/partnering with schools, local organizations, farms, bike coalitions, etc. during the days to talk about sustainability and share music. Join her as she rides the Earth * Bike * Banjo – Earth Month Tour 2013. More on her blog ( or on on Facebook (! Erin will also be playing a full concernt later in the evening as a benefit for the UCB student chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World: 6:00 pm in 240 Bechtel.

Friday, April 5, 3:30-5:00 pm: Dynamic Tensegrities: Foundation for Motion and Thought, Vytas SunSpiral, NASA Ames, Valley Life Science Building, Seminar Room #2063

Abstract: There is a fundamental connection between understanding our daily human experience and understanding how we move. Our brains exist to coordinate motion, so if we wish to understand how we think, feel, and relate to others, we should start by understanding how we move. The control of human and robotic motion is intimately tied to the structure that is being moved, and emerging theories of vertebrate physiology are overturning the traditional bone-centric model of the body in favor of a fascia-centric model where the primary load paths are in the continuous tension network of the soft-tissue. Tensegrity structures distribute forces globally through a continuous tension network while their compression elements do not touch or pass compressive loads to each other. They have many physical properties, such as high strength to weight and multi-path force distribution, which make them ideally suited for robust motion through dynamic natural settings, yet pose new challenges for controls.This talk will discuss the unique properties of tensegrity structures and how they appear to be a foundational part of our bodies and how we move. Challenges in controlling tensegrities will be discussed, including thoughts on how they may be especially appropriate for neurologically inspired Central Pattern Generator (CPG) based oscillatory control networks, enabling a natural coupling from controller to structure to environment. The talk will include an overview of current research into dynamic tensegrity structures, both physical robots and physics based simulations, focusing on robust mobility. A map for the seminar room is at:

Bio: Vytas SunSpiral is a Senior Robotics Researcher in the Intelligent Robotics Group within the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center. He is currently leading efforts within the group to develop new biologically inspired approaches to robotic systems which interact safely with humans and the environment. Recently, Vytas initiated efforts at Ames to develop the next generation Free Flying Robots for crew assistance and ground control telepresence to the International Space Station. Vytas also led development and field-testing of the Footfall Planning Software, which enables operators to plan walking sequences over complex terrain for the ATHLETE family of six-legged lunar robots. Vytas has been developing new robotic technologies and leading start-ups since he graduated from Stanford University in 1998. Most recently he took at 1.5-year break from NASA to be the CTO of Apisphere Inc, a Berkeley based startup that built a cloud-based system for delivering location triggered services to mobile devices. His first start-up in 1998 was Mobot Inc., which built fully autonomous robotic tour guides for museums – some of the first publicly deployed social robots to autonomously interact with the public. In parallel with his career in Robotics Research, Vytas has been a life-long student of human motion in many forms, including yoga, dance, martial arts, and (consequently) many forms of physical therapy and emerging ideas in fascia-centric physiology.

Friday, April 5, 1-2:00 pm: Erin Inglish will give perform and give advice on sustainability and kickstarter, 494 Wurster Cal Design Lab

Album cover

Erin is a former Sustainable Product Design student at UC Berkeley and an honorary BEST Labber! Please join us for her Friday workhop.

Wednesday, April 3, noon pm: NSTAR [INertial STorage And Recovery] System, Daniel Talancon

Daniel Talancon: The INSTAR [INertial STorage And Recovery] System: A flywheel energy storage system for improved hybrid and electric vehicle fuel efficiency. The INSTAR system is a high-power, cost-effective, flywheel energy storage system (FESS) with immediate energy capture and reuse applications in improved electric and hybrid-electric vehicle regenerative braking capabilities. Regenerative braking in hybrid and fully-electric vehicles is an emergent technology that has successfully increased vehicle fuel economy by utilizing the bi-directional energy flow capability of electric motors to capture and reuse the vehicle’s kinetic energy normally dissipated during braking. However, regenerative braking has been hampered by current chemical battery technology; only 40% of the available braking energy is captured and reused, limited by the relatively poor charge rate of popular battery technologies, including lithium-ion. Excess energy the batteries cannot accept is still simply lost. Flywheels are mechanical batteries not limited by the cell chemistry kinetics of current battery technology and can accept energy at a substantially higher rate of power flow. This superior power rating allows the flywheel energy storage system to capture much more of the available braking energy generated during the rapid and repeated accelerations of typical urban driving. Coupled with a brushless DC (BLDC) motor, the INSTAR system efficiently stores and reuses the captured flywheel energy by either powering the electric drive motors for vehicle acceleration or by charging the chemical batteries at an optimized rate for extended vehicle range. This innovative power management scheme requires only short storage periods, the key to a cost-effective, reliable system design. Compared to the regenerative braking systems on PEVs and HEVs today, the addition of the INSTAR flywheel energy storage system (FESS) will allow for 50% more braking energy to be both captured and reused at minimal added cost, extending total vehicle range by 10-15%.

Friday, March 22, 1:00 pm: Liver Fluke Infection and Fish Consumption in Khon Kaen, Thailand: A Case Study on Negotiating the Middle Ground between Eastern & Western Medicine, Sara Samiphak

This practice qualifying exam with SESAME student Sara Samiphak will cover:

  • The Fundamentals of Opisthorchis viverrini’s Life Cycle and Its Transmission to Humans
  • Theories in Health Research and Behavioral Decision Making
  • Sociocultural Perspective on Science Education

Wednesday 20 March, 5-6pm: Applications of Machine Learning to Art and Design, Michael Fink, Google Israel, 254 Sutardja Dai Hall

In this talk at the Berkeley Institute of Design, Michael Fink will presents several applications of machine learning to various fields of design in an attempt to challenge the machine-learning community to expand towards non-traditional domains. Through eleven investigations in architecture, psychology, social media, graphical design, industrial design and political art, he will show that machine learning can evolve to become a powerful tool in augmenting artistic statements and enhancing product usability and personalization. He will also describe the new Bezalel Center for Design and Technology at the Jerusalem Historical Leper Colony.

Michael Fink’s work bridges media research, machine learning and cognitive science. His PhD research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem focused on large scale object recognition in humans and machines (generating publications ranging from machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence to cognitive science, justice and economics). In mid 2005, Michael joined Google Research where he started the “Mass Personalization” effort. Later in 2007, Michael conceived and built YouTube’s Interactive Video Annotations System. In 2009 Michael started leading Google’s data visualization team and in 2012 joined Google Search, where he’s responsible for data sourcing via webmaster relations. Recently, Michael originated a new program integrating computer science in the Hebrew University and design studies in the Bezalel Academy. He also teaches two of the core courses in the program: “Visualization & Sonification” and “Machine-Learning-for-Interactive-Products”.

Friday, March 15, noon: Precipitation Effects in Ion Implanted Aluminum Nitride, Fatima Alleyne

One of the more attractive sources of green energy has roots in the popular recycling theme of other green technologies, now known as “energy scavenging.” In its most promising conformation, energy scavenging converts cyclic mechanical vibrations in the environment or random mechanical pressure pulses, caused by sources ranging from operating machinery to human footfalls, into electrical energy via piezoelectric transducers. Commercial piezoelectrics have evolved to favor lead zirconate titanate (PZT) for its combination of superior properties; these materials, however, do not meet the criteria for “green” nanotechnology due to potential health implications. Fortunately, the search for alternative piezoelectrics has been underway for several years, generating renewed interest in silica (SiO2) and more recently aluminum nitride (AlN), the object of the present study. Working on the hypothesis that buried conducting layers can both mitigate delamination problems and generate sufficient electric fields to engage the operation of resonator devices, we have undertaken a study of silver (Ag) ion implantation to experimentally assess their feasibility in AlN devices. The ion-implanted sample is subjected to a thermal treatment, encouraging diffusion-assisted phase transformations. The objective of this study is to understand these phase transformations with the intent to ultimately control the electrical operation of AlN piezoelectric resonators in energy scavenging applications. Data reveals that computer simulation models provide reliable predictions of silver dose and depth while microscopic analysis reveals the fate of the ion implanted Ag. Sputtered AlN films are also found to grow epitaxially in a columnar morphology with acceptable crystalline quality of the epilayer. It is concluded that the Ag implanted region does indeed have potential as a buried contact layer for piezoelectric based
MEMS devices.

March 8 Friday noon: i4Energy Seminar Sustainable Community Economic Development, Hunter Lovins, Sutardja Dai Hall (CITRIS)

Abstract: Energy is key to effective community economic development. From energy efficiency as the foundation, keeping money at home, to renewable energy generating profits for German towns to entrepreneurs like Mosaic generating jobs and prosperity, clean energy will be the key to revitalizing our economies. Hunter Lovins will review the basic principles of effective local economic development, describe inspiring examples from around the world and present tools for building sustainable local economies here at home. Webcast by CITRIS:

L. Hunter Lovins is President and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS). NCS educates senior decision-makers in business, government and civil society to restore and enhance the natural and human capital while increasing prosperity and quality of life. In partnership with leading thinkers and Implementers, NCS creates innovative, practical tools and strategies to enable companies, communities, and countries to become more sustainable. Trained as a sociologist and lawyer (JD), Hunter is also currently a professor of sustainable business management at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Bard College, and Denver University; and the chief insurgent of the madrone project. Recipient of such honors as the Right Livelihood Award, Lindbergh Award and Leadership in Business, she was named Time Magazine 2000 Hero of the Planet and in 2009 Newsweek dubbed her a “Green Business Icon.” She has co-authored nine books and hundreds of papers, including the 1999 book, Natural Capitalism, 2006 e-book, Climate Protection Manual for Cities, and the 2009 Transforming Industry in Asia. She has served on the boards of governments, non- and for profit companies.

March 6, Wednesday, noon, followed by reception (noon-2:00 pm), Hunter Lovins, Blum Center for Developing Economies.

Regents Lecture: Building a New Development Paradigm: Happiness, Economics & Sustainability: Global warming, rising inequality, economic instability….What if you could transform the dominant economic paradigm to solve all these crises and drive enhanced prosperity and human well being? This is the challenge put to an International Expert Working Group convened by the King and Prime Minister of Bhutan to build a New Development Paradigm. Hunter Lovins, Co-editor of the Sustainable Economy section of the IEWG, will deliver the 2012 Regents lecture on the opportunities and pitfalls of constructing a replacement for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Youtube video of her talk at:

Friday, March 1, noon-2:00 pm: Double Decker with Jason Trager and Sohyeong Kim

Jason Trager: Bounding Mass Consumption using lessons learned from Mass Production. Buildings use 40% of the energy that the United States uses, and are a significant contributor to global warming in the form of CO2emissions. In recent years, research has begun to look at the methodology for revamping individual building’s software such that these buildings operate more efficiently. This procedure, henceforth known as “Software Retrofit” is an intelligent way to save energy in buildings, as their consumption is highly dependent on the software that runs them. This talk will begin to explore the hypothesis that we can achieve statistically driven energy savings in building by applying manufacturing principles to the problem of software retrofit. The design framework proposed will be discussed in the context of some specific technological examples.

Sohyeong Kim: Open Innovation Ecosystem: Case Study of California Cuisine Ecosystem. The concept of Open Innovation has been highly popularized both in academia and industry for the last ten years. Various industries and corporations have been studied from high tech to service sectors. However, the ecosystem that practices open innovation collectively rarely has been reported in academic field. In particular, little research exists on how a business ecosystem has been generated, how it adopts open innovation in its business practice, and what makes an ecosystem sustained over time. My research demonstrates how one ecosystem started its business journey and how it practiced an open innovation within its community. In order to do so, I closely observed and participated in understanding California Cuisine ecosystem to collect data. I employ a mixed research method to understand this ecosystem from quantitative to qualitative methodology. The research findings indicate that (1) knowledge spillover was a conduit to expand and grow its ecosystem and (2) co-creation of product and service with ecosystem participants contributed its innovation collectively, and (3) social innovation was one of key factors to sustain and bond the participants within its ecosystem for several decades. These results reinforce that an open innovation practice is one of the most important factors on growth and expansion of business ecosystems. The research outcomes suggest that business practitioners would consider open innovation approaches when they design a business ecosystem and maintain it. These results additionally indicates that participants of a business ecosystem get stayed because of social innovation aspects, therefore it is very important to consider a role of social innovation in an open innovation ecosystem.

Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm: Exploring Decision-Making Methods For Sustainable Design in Commercial Buildings

Paz Arroyo will give a practice quals on her research. Abstract: Stakeholders in the AEC industry need to select a decision-making method for effectively incorporate sustainability in the problem of choosing an alternative in commercial building design. As Jim Suhr states “Among the most important of all the decisions the world’s people will ever make are their decisions about how to make decisions”. This research shows that the distinctions between methods matter; we will compare some of them including Choosing By Advantages (CBA) and Value-Based methods for choosing a sustainable alternative in commercial building design.

Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm: Case for Diversity

Omoju Miller will talk about her experience conulting at the White House.

Friday, Feb. 8, A Balloon-Borne Platform for Measuring Vertically Resolved Concentrations of Black Carbon in the Troposphere, Danny Wilson

Sunlight-absorbing black carbon (BC) particles emitted during combustion of fossil and biomass fuels contribute to climate change. Modeling studies agree that the climate impact of BC depends on its vertical distribution in the atmosphere. This project is developing a balloon-borne platform for the routine vertical profiling of aerosols that aircraft-based platforms cannot perform because they are too costly. Our current platform includes an improved micro-Aethalometer and a miniaturized optical particle counter integrated with a data acquisition and tracking system, altogether weighing less than six pounds. At this weight, the payload is unrestricted by the Federal Aviation Administration. Compared to its predecessor, the improved micro-Aethalometer has increased sample flow rate, inlet humidity control, and improved firmware, all of which increase stability and sensitivity for high altitude operation. In addition to aerosol data, temperature, pressure, humidity and location are recorded. At 12 km, the payload is released from the balloon, a parachute deploys, and the payload descends gently back to the Earth’s surface. Transceivers incorporated into the instrument package transmit the location of the payload to a ground operator’s laptop throughout the flight allowing the payload to be recovered after each mission. This presentation will feature a description of the technology and several test flights in California. See recent BEST Lab news and videos of recent experiments. Also see recent article in the LBNL News.

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