News & Events


No Motor, No Battery, No Problem


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed robots capable of self-propulsion without using any motors, servos, or power supply. Instead, these first-of-their-kind devices paddle through water as the material they are constructed from deforms with temperature changes. "Combining simple motions together, we were able to embed programming into the material to carry out a sequence of complex behaviors," says Caltech postdoctoral scholar Osama R. Bilal, who is co-first author of the PNAS paper is titled "Harnessing bistability for directional propulsion of soft, untethered robots." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE APh postdocs Osama Bilal

Professor Ravichandran To Give 2018 Robert Henry Thurston Lecture


Guruswami (Ravi) Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering; Otis Booth Leadership Chair, Division of Engineering and Applied Science, has been selected to give the 2018 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Robert Henry Thurston Lecture at ASME Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition in November. He has been awarded this lectureship "for pioneering contributions to mechanics of materials, particularly dynamic deformation, damage and failure, micro/nano mechanics, wave propagation, composites, active materials, cell mechanics and experimental methods.” The lecture was established by the first ASME president to provide an opportunity for leaders in engineering to give a thought provoking lecture on a subject of broad interest to engineers.

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE Guruswami Ravichandran

Ida Qin Receives 2018 Henry Ford II Scholar Award


Mechanical engineering student Yidan (Ida) Qin, advised by Professor Joel Burdick, is a recipient of the 2018 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. She is interested in robotics and machine learning and is developing innovative rehabilitation treatment plans for patients with spinal cord injury using machine learning techniques and the control of bipedal robots inspired by them. The Henry Ford II Scholar Award is funded under an endowment provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The award is made annually to engineering students with the best academic record in their discipline.

Tags: honors MCE Henry Ford II Scholar Award Joel Burdick Yidan (Ida) Qin

Caltech Climate School


To mark the start of Earth Week, Caltech hosted a two-day series of lectures about climate and climate change, which the organizers dubbed "climate school". The speakers included Professor Austin Minnich whose presentation focused on the myths and misconceptions associated with climate change. "Instead of asking for people to trust us, we should ask them notto trust and instead give them guidance for how they can check out what's going on for themselves," Minnich said. [Caltech story]

Tags: MCE Austin Minnich APh

Erika Ye Wins 2018 Google PhD Fellowship


Graduate student Erika Ye co-advised by Professors Austin Minnich, Garnet Chan, and Fernando Brandao, has been awarded a 2018 Google PhD Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students doing exceptional research in computer science and related disciplines. Erika is attempting to discover what current quantum computers can do that classical computers cannot. Currently she is focusing on computational chemistry—particularly, calculating the behavior of electrons in complex molecules, which ultimately could provide detailed information about reaction rates or how enzymes in cells work. [Caltech story]

Tags: honors MCE CMS Austin Minnich Fernando Brandão APh Erika Ye Garnet Chan

Professor Andrade Receives Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize


José Andrade, George W. Housner Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering; Cecil and Sally Drinkward Leadership Chair, Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering; Executive Officer for Mechanical and Civil Engineering, has been awarded the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, the highest civil engineering research award aimed at mid-career researchers who have made notable contributions to their discipline. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has recognized him, "for revolutionizing the field of granular geo-materials" by creating "rigorous multiscale modeling approaches based on scientific understanding of the mechanics and physics across scales and for defining new frontiers for the civil engineering profession including planetary exploration.” [Caltech story]

Tags: honors MCE Jose Andrade

In Grueling Combat, The Riveters Emerge Victorious


This year's ME 72 design competition consisted of fleets of robot tanks built by undergraduate students climbing hills, capturing bases, and shooting each other with foam balls in an epic series of battles on the Caltech Beckman Mall. After 20 rounds of battle, the Riveters—Mohar Chatterjee, Caroline Paules, Diandra Almasco, and Hannah Chen, who dubbed their team in honor of Rosie the Riveter—emerged victorious, having never lost a single match. They utilized a track-wheeled tank design topped by flywheel-based cannons, and relied on a consistent and effective strategy of capturing two key bases quickly and holding onto them for the remainder of the match. Though the Riveters were the only all-female team, women actually outnumbered men in this year's ME 72 course for the first time in its 33-year history. [Caltech story]

Tags: MCE ME72 Mohar Chatterjee Caroline Paules Diandra Almasco Hannah Chen

New Process Allows 3-D Printing of Nanoscale Metal Structures


Professor Julia Greer and graduate student Andrey Vyatskikh have created complex nanoscale metal structures using 3-D printing. The process, once scaled up, could be used in a wide variety of applications and opens the door to the creation of a new class of materials with unusual properties that are based on their internal structure. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MedE MCE Julia Greer MatSci Andrey Vyatskikh

Building a Legacy in Engineering


Caltech alumnus Cecil “Cece” Drinkward (BS ’50, Civil Engineering) defined himself as a man who skirted life’s easy paths and forged his own, more challenging ones. Drinkward and his wife, Sally Drinkward, have made a $5 million gift to endow a leadership chair for the Department of Mechanical and Civil Engineering (MCE). “One of the things Cece was most proud of in his life was being a graduate of Caltech, because, in his mind, he never could have accomplished what he did without the education he received here,” Sally Drinkward says. “He always felt he needed to give back to Caltech. It’s an honor to have his legacy live on with this gift.” [Breakthrough story] [ENGenious alumni profile]

Tags: MCE Jose Andrade alumni Cecil Drinkward Sally Drinkward

Caltech and Disney Engineers Collaborate on Robotics


Caltech and Disney Research have entered into a joint research agreement to pioneer robotic control systems and further explore artificial intelligence technologies. Pietro Perona will work with Disney roboticist Martin Buehler to create navigation and perception software that could allow robotic characters to safely move through dense crowds and interact with people. Aaron Ames will work with Disney Research's Lanny Smoot to further explore robot autonomy and machine learning by creating objects that can self-navigate and perform stunts. Yisong Yue has been working with engineers from Disney Research on the use of machine learning to analyze the behavior of soccer players and to measure audience engagement. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MCE CMS Pietro Perona Yisong Yue Aaron Ames