Innovation & Design Challenges, May 2015

The Tennessean recently profiled an engineering graduate student at Vanderbilt University that used a mechanical exoskeleton developed in the lab of Michael Goldfarb, Ph.D. (AZ A ’89), to rise from his wheelchair and walk down the hallway. “It was the first time the Ph.D. student had seen himself walk since a snowboarding accident broke his back in 2010.” He is working on the project and “on the addition of electrodes that transmit electric pulses to the user’s leg muscles while the exoskeleton helps them to walk.”

“Andrew obviously has a perspective that only somebody with that injury can have,” Dr. Goldfarb said. “Andrew is a very talented engineer and designer and roboticist. I definitely respect and value that. He also, I think, has a unique motivation.” Click here to read the article for more on the research and design being done on exoskeletons.

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A University of Alabama Astrobotics Team will be competing in the NASA Robotics Mining Competition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida this month. This is the sixth annual competition “for university-level students to design and build a mining robot that can traverse the simulated Martian chaotic terrain, excavate Martian regolith (or material found in space) and deposit the regolith into a collector bin within ten minutes.”

The Univ. of Alabama (UA) team has developed a robot named MARTE. “It’s basically two robots in one, the top robot which excavates can separate from the bottom robot which drives and those both operate independently of one another and it’s a great feature for taking things to space,” said UA team member Kellen C. Schroeter, (AL B 2015). Read the article for more information

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Mason A. Peck, Ph.D. (NY D ’94), and another professor from Cornell University have received a grant from NASA for the development of an amphibious-rover project. Dr. Peck is an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. According to the article, “The funding will support a nine-month feasibility study on the eel-like rover. The amphibious robot would scavenge power from Jupiter’s magnetic field and explore Europa’s salty, ice-covered ocean.”

“We’re trying to explore a completely different application here, and we might be successful or we might fail,” Dr. Peck said, “but I think if no one takes the risks, we’ll never succeed.”

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