News & Events


Bionic Jellyfish Swim Faster and More Efficiently


John Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, has developed a tiny prosthetic that enables jellyfish to swim faster and more efficiently than they normally do, without stressing the animals. Dabiri is envisioning a future in which jellyfish equipped with sensors could be directed to explore and record information about the ocean. "Only five to 10 percent of the volume of the ocean has been explored, so we want to take advantage of the fact that jellyfish are everywhere already to make a leap from ship-based measurements, which are limited in number due to their high cost," Dabiri says. "If we can find a way to direct these jellyfish and also equip them with sensors to track things like ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and so on, we could create a truly global ocean network where each of the jellyfish robots costs a few dollars to instrument and feeds themselves energy from prey already in the ocean." [Caltech story]

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Researchers Develop New Quantum Algorithm


Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, Fernando Brandão, Bren Professor of Theoretical Physics, and Garnet Chan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, have developed an algorithm for quantum computers that will help them find use in simulations in the physical sciences. The new algorithm allows a user to find the lowest energy of a given molecule or material. Many people are interested in how to simulate the ground states of molecules and materials. "If we want to do a simulation of water, we could look at how water behaves after it has been blasted into a plasma—an electrically charged gas—but that's not the state water is usually found in; it is not the ground state of water. Ground states are of special interest in understanding the world under ordinary conditions," says Chan. [Caltech story]

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Professor Ames Receives Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize


Aaron Ames, Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems, has won the Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize. This prize is given to recognize outstanding achievement in research in systems and control by a young researcher and to honor the memory of Dr. Antonio Ruberti. [Past recipients]

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Robots Compete Underground in DARPA Challenge


A robot named Balto designed and built by undergraduate students at Caltech working with graduate students at Caltech and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA, took to the field in the first phase of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Subterranean (SubT) Challenge this summer, where the Caltech-JPL team took second place. The SubT Challenge is an international competition sponsored by DARPA to advance technologies to autonomously map, navigate, and search underground environments. Professor Joel Burdick, the leader of the Caltech section of the CoSTAR team says "The drones are our air-based scouts, and Balto is our eyes and ears on the ground. It's light, cheap, and fast. It can get in, find out what's going on, and help us to make decisions about how to proceed." [Caltech story]

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Students Receive KPMG Innovation Award


Amanda R. Bouman and Elena-Sorina Lupu, students in Caltech's Center on Autonomous Systems and Technology (CAST) program, receive the 2019 KMPG Innovation Award. The students are recognized for their extraordinary efforts in exploring interdisciplinary research in the field of autonomy.

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Caltech Announces the Schmidt Academy for Software Engineering


Caltech has launched the Schmidt Academy for Software Engineering to train the next generation of science-savvy software engineers and set new standards in scientific software. "This is a recognition that computing, software, and machine learning are going to play a very big role in science. Because Caltech is small and collaborative, we have the opportunity to really make a push in that direction," says Kaushik Bhattacharya, the Howell N. Tyson, Sr., Professor of Mechanics and Materials Science and vice provost. [Caltech release]

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Professor Julia R. Greer Named Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute


Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering, has been named the Fletcher Jones Foundation Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI). Greer replaces professors Oskar Painter and Nai-Chang Yeh, who served together as co-directors. "I am delighted to begin spearheading the wonderful enterprise of the KNI, humbly following the footsteps of my predecessors, professors Painter and Yeh. I have been a KNI member and on the board of directors since shortly after I arrived at Caltech," Greer says. [Caltech story]

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Alumnus Gary Clinard Creates Innovation Fund


Entrepreneur and Caltech alumnus Gary Clinard (BS ’65, Engineering, MS ’66, Mechanical Engineering) has created an innovation fund to advance interdisciplinary research in engineering and applied science at Caltech. [Read full article]

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Self-folding “Rollbot” paves the way for fully untethered soft robots


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed soft robotic systems, inspired by origami, that can move and change shape in response to external stimuli, paving the way for fully untethered soft robots. "This work demonstrates how the combination of responsive polymers in an architected composite can lead to materials with self-actuation in response to different stimuli. In the future, such materials can be programmed to perform ever more complex tasks, blurring the boundaries between materials and robots," said Professor Daraio. [Caltech story]

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A Promising Step in Returning Bipedal Mobility


Professors Aaron Ames and Joel Burdick have launched a new research initiative, RoAMS (Robotic Assisted Mobility Science), aimed at restoring natural and stable locomotion to individuals with walking deficiencies that result from spinal cord injuries and strokes. RoAMS unites robotic assistive devices—including exoskeletons and prostheses—with artificial intelligence (AI)-infused neurocontrol. "Bipedal walking is difficult to achieve in a stable fashion," says Professor Ames. "While crutches help users of the exoskeletons to stay upright, they undercut many of the health benefits that upright locomotion might otherwise provide. In addition, they do not allow users to do anything else with their hands while walking." [Caltech story]

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