BEST Seminars 2015

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All BEST Lab seminars will be in 230 Hesse Hall, unless otherwise noted. Lunch served, if at noon or 1:00 pm using this sign-up sheet: Some talks will be held jointly with the Berkeley Institute of Design seminar series at 354/360 Hearst Mining Building.

You are also invited to our design practitioner workshops on Friday at noon in Fall 2015.

Human-Centered Design for Social Impact: Case Studies of and the International Development Design Summit

1-2 pm Tuesday, December 15, 240 Sutardja Dai Hall (CITRIS building)
Dissertation talk by Jessica Vechakul.

Abstract: In the social sector, programs often fail due to a lack of understanding of the norms, knowledge, and needs of the people who execute and benefit from the solutions offered by those programs. Human-Centered Design (HCD) offers a broadly-applicable problem-solving framework and methods for developing an in-depth understanding of people who are directly impacted by development challenges, generating creative ideas, and rapidly learning from small-scale pilots.

As HCD is an emerging practice in the social sector, a critical first step is an exploratory case study. Using the Social Blueprint framework, I characterized two drastically different approaches for teaching and practicing HCD for Social Impact.’s Fellowship program represents a Project-Based Consulting Model in which professional design teams partner with social enterprises, nonprofits, and foundations to design and implement scalable products and services. During the one-year Fellowship program, social sector leaders learn HCD by working on design consulting projects with experienced designers. The International Development Design Summit (IDDS) program represents a Creative Capacity Building Model, in which students and members of low-income communities learn to design appropriate technologies and launch social enterprises. IDDS is an educational conference that aims to put participants on a lifelong path dedicated to social innovation.

These exploratory case studies consist of a qualitative analysis of documents, participant observations, and key informant interviews. All the key informants were employees or volunteers previously or currently working with the organizations in this research study. My comparison of’s and IDDS’s design processes suggests that the HCD process is not a static process, but rather is heavily influenced by organizational and project contexts. I developed in-depth case studies of an project and an IDDS project to illustrate the differences in their approaches.

Practice Presentation for NASA Review of Precision Hopping/ Rolling Robotic Surface Probe Based on Tensegrity Structures

2-3 pm Friday, November 6, 230 Hesse Hall
The goal of this research is to create flexible probes based on tensegrity structures that can enable low-cost and high-return mobile robotic surface operations for planetary exploration. Photo below of tensegrity team at the talk.


Visualize an end to cervical cancer in the developing world, support midwifery in Ghana

4-5 pm Wednesday, September 16, 230 Hesse Hall
Our own Julia Kramer will be presenting her research on a design approach to preventing cervical cancer in Ghana and elsewhere. It is part of a campus crowdsourcing campaign. Please join us to hear about this great work and consider a donation, no matter how small. Update: She was able to meet her goal and more. Congratulations Julia!

DNA-Structured Linear Actuator for Tensegrity Robots

Friday, August 28, 3:00 pm BEST Lab (320 Hesse Hall)

Committee Chair:   Prof. Alice Agogino (ME)
Inside Member:      Prof. Dennis Lieu (ME)

Abstract: Linear actuators are crucial for effective motion in tensegrity robots. Due to the robots’ unique form, it is difficult to find actuators that meet all the necessary requirements: high speed, lightweight, cost effectiveness, compliance, and discreet packaging.  The DNA-structured linear actuator aims to combine all these properties into a single device. For this study, mathematical models were developed to describe the theoretical length change based on actuator geometry and transmission ratio curves have been derived based on simulation performance. Several iterations of actuators were constructed and tested by hand before settling on a design to qualify against simulation results. A physical testing setup to measure the length change, rotation, torque, and force applied to the actuator was constructed. After initial testing, it was found that the length to rotation ratio only showed small deviation from the simulation results. Torque tests were conducted to measure the internal restoring force of the actuator. Finally, some rudimentary pull tests were performed to measure how much mass the actuator could move at various length states.

A Descriptive Study of Learning Style Diversity in Design and Innovation Teams

Wednesday, August 12, 1:00 pm, 5102 Etcheverry Hall

Committee Chair:   Prof. Alice Agogino (ME)
Inside Member:      Prof. Dennis Lieu (ME)
Outside Member:   Prof. Sara L Beckman (HAAS)

Abstract: The success of companies is being increasingly driven by their ability to create the “next big thing”. Design and innovation are increasingly important to achieving competitive advantage, and successful product design provides a tangible means for creating these key customer experiences. Good product design requires good teamwork and the best performing teams are often diverse teams with members that can capitalize on the diversity they have. My research explores this role of diversity in design teams. In particular, I focus on learning styles as defined by David Kolb for its strong connection with the innovation process. I break down the diversity makeup of innovation-oriented populations in academic and industry groups, and also explore how these diversity factors affect the success and dynamics of a design team.

Impact Testing of Tensegrity Robots

Friday, July 31: Kimberley Fountain, our visiting research for this summer would like to present her summer work. The presentation will be at Etcheverry – 1106 at 12:30pm.

Abstract: Tensegrity robots are a revolutionizing generation of soft robotics, designed to operate safely and effectively alongside humans, while, for space exploration purposes, have a much better chance at confident landing than traditional robots.  Due to the natural compliance and structural force distribution properties of tensegrity structures, these robots are able to absorb significant forces upon impact, making them an effective replacement for traditional space rovers2.  Designing the first controlled drop test for tensegrity robots will further improve the framework of these structures and develop an optimized means of observation of their behavior upon impact, allowing for recognition of opportunities for improvements for subsequent versions of the robot.  The current design focus is on testing 6-bar tensegrity structures, but the design will be modular for developing and testing other tensegrity structures.  Video analysis and motion tracking tools were used to perform detailed falling and impact analyses of the structure deformation and center of gravity during drop tests.  By observing the results of the structure deformation per height drop upon different surfaces, scientists and engineers will be able to build a superior 6-strut tensegrity robot for planetary exploration.

Active Elastic Skins for Soft and Wearable Robots

Wed., July 22, 2015: 1:30 pm 230 Hesse Hall, Rebecca Kramer Bottiglio, Mechanical Engineering at Purdue

Abstract: As advanced as modern machines are, the building blocks have changed little since the industrial revolution. Traditional machines conjure images of motors, gears and wires, and are typically rigid, bulky and heavy. Future machines will be soft, elastically deformable and lightweight, lending them to applications such as soft robots, conformable wearable devices, and safe human-machine interfaces. Progress toward these next-generation soft machines is an interplay between the development of new soft active materials for actuation and sensing, new adaptive controllers that will account for the non-linear and time-varying behaviors displayed by soft materials, and new scalable manufacturing processes for soft materials. This talk will highlight each of these research thrusts within the framework of active elastic skins, which will enable lightweight, compact, robust and reconfigurable soft and wearable robots.

Bio: Rebecca Kramer is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. She completed her B.S. at Johns Hopkins University (2007), M.S. at U.C. Berkeley (2008), and Ph.D. at Harvard University (2012). At Purdue, she founded The Faboratory, which contains a leading facility for the rapid design, fabrication, and analysis of materially soft and multifunctional robots. Her research interests involve stretchable electronics, soft actuators, soft material manufacturing, and soft-bodied control. She is the winner of a 2014 NASA Early Career Faculty Award, a 2015 NSF CAREER Award, and she was named to the 2015 Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.