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New Algorithm Helps Autonomous Vehicles Find Themselves, Summer or Winter

06-24-21

Without GPS, autonomous systems get lost easily. Now a new algorithm developed at Caltech allows autonomous systems to recognize where they are simply by looking at the terrain around them—and for the first time, the technology works regardless of seasonal changes to that terrain. The general process, known as visual terrain-relative navigation (VTRN), was first developed in the 1960s. By comparing nearby terrain to high-resolution satellite images, autonomous systems can locate themselves. The problem is that, in order for it to work, the current generation of VTRN requires that the terrain it is looking at closely matches the images in its database. To overcome this challenge, Anthony Fragoso, Lecturer in Aerospace; Staff Scientist, Connor Lee, Graduate student in Aerospace, Austin McCoy, Undergraduate, and Soon-Jo Chung, Bren Professor of Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems and research scientist at JPL, turned to deep learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to remove seasonal content that hinders current VTRN systems. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE CMS Soon-Jo Chung Anthony Fragoso Connor Lee Austin McCoy

Luis Pabon Madrid Receives 2021 Henry Ford II Scholar Award

05-24-21

Mechanical Engineering student Luis Pabon Madrid, advised by Sergio Pellegrino, Joyce and Kent Kresa Professor of Aerospace and Civil Engineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist; Co-Director, Space-Based Solar Power Project, is one of four recipients of the 2021 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. Luis is interested in the intersection of robotics and aerospace with a focus on space exploration. Luis does research on aerial manipulation for a Mars science rotorcraft with Joel W. Burdick, Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist. He has previously worked as a Research and Development intern at Honeywell Aerospace and contributed to Caltech and JPL’s efforts for the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. He founded the Caltech AIAA Student Branch, which was selected as finalist for the NASA BIG Idea Challenge and awarded a grant to develop lunar dust mitigation technologies under the advisement of Soon-Jo Chung, Bren Professor of Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist. This summer, he will be working as a SURF fellow under Professor Chung, to continue his work on the challenge and explore the control of multirotor swarms. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. 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 at the end of the third year of undergraduate study.

Tags: honors MCE Henry Ford II Scholar Award Joel Burdick Soon-Jo Chung Luis Pabon Madrid

EAS New Horizons Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Award

05-04-21

The Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences seeks nominations to recognize and honor individuals within the EAS community who have actively contributed to EAS’s goal to be a diverse, equitable, and inclusive engineering community. The award is available to members of the EAS community, including current students, postdoctoral scholars, staff, and faculty. Nominations are due Wednesday, May 19, 2021 and are accepted from anyone in the EAS community, EAS alumni and members of the Caltech community. Click here for full description of how to make a nomination.

Tags: APhMS EE honors GALCIT MedE MCE CMS ESE

Professor Rosakis Receives Horace Mann Medal

05-03-21

Ares Rosakis, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering is the recipient of the 2020/2021 Horace Mann Medal. The Horace Mann Medal is given annually to a Brown Graduate School alumnus or alumna who has made significant contributions in his or her field, inside or outside of academia. Rosakis is recognized for his research and mentoring skills, as well as being “a champion of societal impact that can be realized through the sciences,” says Larry Larson, Sorensen Family Dean of the Brown School of Engineering. [Previous Winners]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE Ares Rosakis

Student-Led Moon Dust Shield Team Named Finalist in NASA Competition

02-16-21

As astronauts walk across the moon, land spacecraft on its surface, drive lunar rovers around, or complete other astronaut tasks, they kick up the dust, and that is a problem because it can cause premature wear on mechanical parts, damage to seals, and may pose a health risk for the people breathing it in. "The sun is shining directly on these particles and giving them an electric charge," says third-year Caltech undergraduate student Luis Pabon. "This causes it to stick to the astronaut's suit or to any sensors or cameras that you put out on the moon." The Caltech team's invention, named Habitat Orientable & Modular Electrodynamic Shield (HOMES), tackles the problem of moon dust entering a potential lunar habitat and wreaking havoc within. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE Luis Pabon

Brit Wylie Awarded Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship

02-11-21

Graduate student Brit Wylie has been awarded a Matthew Isakowitz fellowship. The Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program is a highly selective internship, mentorship, and networking program that provides extraordinary summer opportunities to current college juniors, seniors, and graduate students passionate about commercial spaceflight. Brit is excited to work on commercial space accessibility with Rocket Lab and the Matthew Isakowitz Fellowship Program this summer. [2021 Recipients]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE Brit Wylie

Waterman Awardee Dabiri Featured in National Science Foundation Video Profile

12-16-20

The National Science Foundation (NSF) honored John O. Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, with the 2020 Alan T. Waterman Award. The NSF has released a video interview with the Waterman awardees. The Alan T. Waterman Award is given to an outstanding young U.S. scientist or engineer along with a medal and other recognition. "This year's scientific pioneers are innovators who are creatively addressing some of the most challenging scientific questions," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "John Dabiri has looked to the fluid mechanics of sea life for inspiration to build better wind farms that appear to boost efficiency with a much smaller footprint." [NSF Interview with Dabiri] [NSF story] [Caltech story]

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE John Dabiri

FUTURE Ignited

11-04-20

Nearly 200 undergraduates from more than 120 colleges and universities across the country joined Caltech for FUTURE Ignited, a virtual event that aimed to encourage students of color to pursue graduate studies in science and engineering. The goal of FUTURE Ignited is to diversify STEM with students of color who will go on to become incredible graduate students and scientific leaders in their respective fields. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS EE GALCIT MCE CMS ESE FUTURE Ignited

Lab-Grown Earthquakes Reveal the Frictional Forces Acting Beneath Our Feet

09-03-20

Simulating an earthquake on a miniature scale in a laboratory known unofficially as the "seismological wind tunnel," engineers and seismologists have produced the most comprehensive look to date at the complex physics of friction driving destructive thrust-fault earthquakes. "Simulating earthquakes in a lab lets us observe how these brief and violent events grow and evolve by ‘slowing down' their motion through high-speed photography and optics," says Ares Rosakis, the Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE Ares Rosakis

Dabiri Receives Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation

08-05-20

The National Science Foundation (NSF) honors John O. Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, with the 2020 Alan T. Waterman Award. The Alan T. Waterman Award is given to an outstanding young U.S. scientist or engineer along with a medal and other recognition. "This year's scientific pioneers are innovators who are creatively addressing some of the most challenging scientific questions," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "John Dabiri has looked to the fluid mechanics of sea life for inspiration to build better wind farms that appear to boost efficiency with a much smaller footprint." [NSF story] [Caltech story

Tags: honors GALCIT MCE John Dabiri Waterman Award