MechE Department News


Robocon 2011 Held at MIT

Every summer for the past 21 years, the International Design Competition (IDC) Robocon takes place, pitting multi-national teams of students against each other in a competition of robotic knowledge and design skills.

The 22nd annual Robocon, hosted at MIT, commenced this year on July 25 when student representatives from 12 universities arrived in Cambridge to begin the 2-week long process of designing and building their best robot to meet a specified challenge. Each team was comprised of students from different universities representing Brazil, China, France, Korea, Japan, Morocco, Singapore, Thailand, and the US.

RoboCon 2011This year’s challenge was based on famous hacks in MIT history: stealing the Caltech cannon, inflating a balloon on the Harvard Yard football field, dropping superballs in Killian Court, and placing a police car on the Great Dome.

The event culminated on Friday, August 5, from 9am to 12pm, when 16 teams had a showdown in several rounds of play to be one of the top four winning teams. The competition held more than 100 onlookers awestruck as two weeks’ worth of work finally came to a head. Tension permeated the room as each team vied to complete as many of the four challenges as possible for the highest number of points.

In the end, Team Copper won third place, Team Gold won second place, and Team Brown won first place, winning 140 points to Team Gold’s 5 points in the final match.


Two MechE Students Compete in International RoboCup Competition

This past July, Baker Logan and Julie Henion, both MechE undergraduate students, made their way to Istanbul, Turkey, to compete in the International RoboCup Competition as part of the RFC Cambridge team, comprised of 12 students from both MIT and Harvard.

An international organization designed to advance robotics research, RoboCup’s ultimate goal is to develop a team of autonomous, humanoid robots that can defeat the 2050 World Cup champion team.

RoboCup 2011RFC Cambridge competes in the “small size” league with five 8-inch cylindrical robots driven by four omni wheels. The robots run autonomously via a global vision system that captures data about the position and orientation of all the robots with respect to the ball. That data is sent to the players’ computer, which uses strategy algorithms to determine what each robot should do next and then sends those commands to the robots.

This year, the 22 small-size league teams were divided among four fields, and RFC faced stiff competition on the field from teams from Japan, Iran, Germany, and Brazil. Unfortunately, they were unable to advance to the semifinals, losing three matches and tying one, but gained encouraging insight into several problems with their design on both the mechanical and electrical fronts.

“It was especially rewarding to see some of our new designs this year– including a new dribbler, kicker, and wheels – significantly improve the performance of our robots at the competition,” says Julie Henion. “Next year we’ll be even better.”


MechE’s Brian Anthony Co-Founds The Medical Device Electronics Realization Center

Brian Anthony, director of the Master of Engineering and Manufacturing program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, along with Charles Sodini, LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering at MIT, and Joel Voldman, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, recently co-founded a new center at MIT focused on medical device realization.

Their collective aim with MEDRC is to serve as a focal point for large business, venture-funded startups, and the medical community. Acting as such an intersection, their primary focus is to create prototype devices and intellectual property, and serve as the catalyst for the deployment of innovative health care technology that will reduce costs in both the developed and developing world. To those ends, they’ve identified several areas of focus: wearable devices, minimally invasive monitoring devices, medical imaging, point-of-care instrumentation, and data communication.

While theirs isn’t the only medical device research being conducted, Sodini, Voldman, and Anthony are excited about the innovative collaborations the MEDRC model initiates between technologists at MIT, clinicians, and companies. With input from all three areas, MEDRC projects have the advantage of insight from the technology arena, the medical arena, and the business arena, thus significantly increasing the chances that their devices will fulfill a real health care need as well as be profitable for companies.


National Instruments Makes Generous Donation Commitment to MechE

In a supportive effort to expand the use of its design equipment in MechE, National Instruments has committed to donating significant hardware and software over the next five years to a variety of mechatronics, robotics, manufacturing, control and design courses.

The donation also intersects with some research efforts of several MechE professors, including Professor Sangbae Kim for biomimetic robots, Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi for atomic force microscopy, and Professor Harry Asada for various projects in robotic inspection.

“We are very appreciative of the support from National Instruments,” says Department Head Mary Boyce. “Use of state-of-the-art NI tools enhances the classroom experience and reinforces student learning at multiple points in the curriculum. The NI tools can also help accelerate the department’s research into new areas, such as agile biomimetic robotics, high-speed imaging at the nanoscale, and precision motion control.”


In Memoriam: Warren M. Rohsenow

Warren M. RohsenowIt is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor Warren M. Rohsenow this past June at his home in Falmouth, Maine. He was 90 years old.

Professor Rohsenow joined MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in the mid-1940s after beginning his teaching career at Yale. Before Yale, he worked for two years in the Navy developing temperature instrumentation for the first gas turbine tested in the US. He earned his BA from Northwestern University in his hometown of Chicago, and his MA and PhD from Yale University.

Professor Rohsenow was the director of MIT’s Heat Transfer Lab for many years. Rohsenow led cutting-edge research on nucleate boiling, gas turbines, heat exchangers, heat transfer in nuclear reactors, and condensation in cooling towers. He was a leader in his field, making many discoveries throughout his career that led to the contemporary understanding of thermal power and heat transfer. In the late 1950s, Rohsenow co-founded Dynatech, a consulting and manufacturing company, and became its chairman. In 1992, some years after his retirement from MIT in 1984, the Heat Transfer Lab was renamed in his honor.

Professor Rohsenow also served as graduate officer of Mechanical Engineering for nearly 30 years.

Professor Rohsenow was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Science and the National Academy of Engineering. He was a recipient of the Max Jakob Memorial Award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, as well as the ASME Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.meche logo