Department News


RoboClam Inspired by Efficient Razor Clam


Razor clam, left, versus RoboClam, right.

The Atlantic razor clam uses very little energy to burrow into undersea soil at high speed. Now a detailed insight into how the animal digs has led to the development of a robotic clam that can perform the same trick. The device, known as “RoboClam,” could be used to dig itself into the ground to bury anchors or destroy underwater mines, according to its developer, Amos Winter, the Robert N. Noyce Career Development Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Winter and his co-developer, Professor Anette Hosoi, investigated how the clam’s movement causes the soil to liquefy around its shell, and then applied the same techniques to the RoboClam. To develop this low-energy anchoring system, the researchers built a mechanical puppet clamshell, consisting of two halves that can move together and apart in a similar way to an accordion. In addition to anchoring underwater vehicles and detonating mines, the RoboClam could also be used to lay underwater cables, Winter says. –Helen Knight, MIT News Office


MechE Students Win Both “Use it!” Category Lemelson-MIT Prizes


Ben Peters

MechE students won both the undergraduate and graduate student prizes in this year’s Lemelson-MIT Program “Use it!” categories, which recognize students working on technology-based inventions that can improve consumer devices and tools. Graduate student Ben Peters won for his invention of critical technology that enables the production of a new breed of machine tool: a high resolution, reconfigurable molding surface. Similar to a desktop pin-impression toy, Peters’ reconfigurable molding surface combines the high production rate of injection molding with the custom reconfigurability of a 3-D printer. This “digital mold” has a technological potential to be a fast and flexible industrial fabrication tool used in commercial manufacturing, prototyping, and the emerging market of do-it-yourself personalized fabrication. An undergraduate team, led by Christopher Haid, won for its do-it-yourself personalized fabrication tool, a 3-D printer designed for the classroom. The automated, easy-to-use cloud interface and remote monitoring capabilities allow teachers and high school students to print continuously from any device. The team’s invention, commercialized by their company NVBots, gives students the ability to turn their virtual designs into physical objects. Additional team members include Mateo Pena Doll, AJ Perez and Forrest Pieper. –Stephanie Martinovich, Lemelson-MIT Program


STE@M Day Welcomes Companies and Celebrates Technology in Sports


Department Head Gang Chen checks out Okuma fishing reels with Professor Neville Hogan.

This past April, an MIT tech group started by MechE Professor Anette “Peko” Hosoi welcomed several engineering- focused sports companies to campus for the first ever STE@M Day. The group, also called STE@M (Sports Technology and Education @ MIT), was created for students who are interested in “advancing technology at the interface of sports and engineering.” Several MechE faculty gave tours of their labs and presentations about their recent research to representatives from companies such as Eastman, Nemo Equipment, Nike, Okuma, Patagonia, Polartec, and Red Bull. After the lab tours, it was the companies’ turn to present their sport-related technology to MechE faculty and students for an engineering version of show and tell called the “Engineering Petting Zoo.” Okuma discussed their advanced fishing reels; NEMO displayed their inflatable tents and sleeping bags; and Red Bull brought a wingsuit donned by faculty and student attendees, among many others.


MechE Students Part of Winning Team in DoE Better Buildings Competition


MIT team in DC.

A team of eight MIT undergraduate and graduate students – including two MechE students, senior Cheetiri Smith (SB ’14) and graduate student Julia Sokol – won two awards in this year’s US Department of Energy (DoE) Better Buildings Case Competition, out of more than 150 students from across the country. The Case Competition engages the next generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, and policymakers to develop creative solutions to real-world energy efficiency problems for businesses and other organizations. The MIT team, First Fuel, led by two urban studies and planning graduate students, won in two of the six real-world case studies. They won Best Proposal for Experimenting with Efficiency: Greening the grant process for research institutions, and Most Innovative for Electri-City: Energy Management in Public Buildings. For Experimenting with Efficiency, the team recommended a three-pronged strategy to change the financial incentives and disseminate information to research labs, including establishing efficiency standards for the most energy intensive lab equipment; changing the indirect cost recovery calculation to reduce the amount of energy expenses that can be claimed; and mandating that a best-energy-practices training be required for all lab staff. For Energy Management in Public Buildings, the students recommended that the city establish a revolving loan fund, which allows energy efficiency projects to pay for themselves through avoided utility costs. –Victoria Ekstrom, MIT Energy Initiative


MechE Graduate Program Ranked #1 in US News

US News & World Report recently awarded MIT a score of 100 among graduate programs in engineering, followed by No. 2 Stanford University (93), No. 3 University of California at Berkeley (87), and No. 4 California Institute of Technology (80). As was the case last year, MIT’s graduate programs led US News lists in seven engineering disciplines, including mechanical engineering (which tied with Stanford). Other top-ranked engineering programs at MIT this year are aerospace engineering; chemical engineering; materials engineering; computer engineering; electrical engineering (tied with Stanford and Berkeley); and nuclear engineering (tied with the University of Michigan). MIT’s graduate program in biomedical engineering was also a top-five finisher, tying for third with the University of California at San Diego. US News bases its rankings of graduate schools of engineering on two types of data: reputational surveys of deans and other academic officials, and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school’s faculty, research, and students. –MIT News Office