MechE research news

MechE partners for naval engineering education

Under the leadership of MechE professor Alexandra Techet, MIT and eleven partner universities have formed the Naval Engineering Education Consortium (NEEC). The goal of the consortium is to train the next generation of naval civilian engineers and to promote innovation and research in naval systems engineering. The program will focus on areas of high priority to the Navy in education and research.

NEEC will train civilian engineers at both the graduate and undergraduate levels at a time when design and construction is beginning on the next generation of vessels. To encourage the best domestic science and engineering students to consider careers in Navy organizations, NEEC will engage them in Navy-related science and engineering projects that are both challenging and relevant for current and future objectives. NEEC was recently awarded $50 million in funding from the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) over the next five and a half years, approximately $6.1 million of which was awarded to MIT. Professor Michael Triantafyllou, director of the MIT Center for Ocean Engineering, is co-principle investigator on the project.

Universities partner for bio-inspired robotics

Supported by a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Defense Office of Naval Research, researchers from four universities will join forces to study rat brains to help military robots navigate and map their surroundings. MechE professor John Leonard is one of eight researchers involved in the multidisciplinary university research initiative (MURI).

The research will focus on the ability of a robot to perform navigation toward selected goals in the environment. It will also explore the capacity for a human operator to communicate with a robot about locations and goals. The work will require robots to learn a representation of the environment during exploration while accurately recognizing location, a process called simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) that was developed in part by Leonard.

The researchers on this MURI grant include team leader Michael Hasselmo, Chantal Stern, and Howard Eichenbaum of Boston University, Nicholas Roy, John Leonard, and Matthew Wilson of MIT, Ila Fiete of the University of Texas at Austin, and Neil Burgess of University College, London.

University research collaboration in Singapore

The Department of Mechanical Engineer is pleased to announce the establishment of the MIT-Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), a research collaboration between MIT and Singapore’s Ministry of Education. MechE professor and new SUTD director Sanjay Sarma will succeed Professor Tony Patera, who led the negotiations between MIT and Singaporean officials.

SUTD will become Singapore’s newest research university and will admit its first students in 2012. MIT’s role will include developing curricula and advising SUTD on faculty recruitment, including a “teach the teachers” component. In addition, MIT will help develop an International Design Center (IDC) with facilities both in Singapore and at MIT. Mechanical Engineering Professor Dan Frey is co-principal investigator on the IDC project. The collaboration will bring significant financial support to MIT for curriculum development, graduate students, and faculty research.

2.674: Hands-on micro and nanoengineering

Students working in 2.674

Students at work in the lab for course 2.674

Undergraduate students can now explore micro/nanotechnology as part of their course 2 curriculum. A group of mechanical engineering faculty has developed course 2.674 to challenge students to think creatively and solve multi-scale and multi-disciplinary problems at the micro and nanoscale. Students in course 2.674 must understand basic physics, chemistry, and the behavior of materials at nano and micro length scales in order to design, engineer, and fabricate their projects. Through alternating lecture and laboratory segments, students continuously take concepts introduced in lectures to the laboratory bench top.

Pappalardo II lab renovations

Thanks to generous support from Neil and Jane Pappalardo, fourteen individual MechE laboratories have recently completed renovations. The labs, which are all part of MechE’s main group, provide research facilities for 12 faculty and more than 30 graduate and undergraduate students. The area, affectionately referred to as Pappalardo II, is now home to research in nanoengineering, experimental hydrodynamics, and bio-inspired robotics. Pappalardo II also houses two undergraduate teaching laboratories, the robotics and ocean engineering teaching lab, and the nanoengineering teaching lab.

The renovations have dramatically improved Buildings 3 and 5, which now offer a bright and bustling throughway, glass doors, large windows, and wide-open research labs. Combined, the labs, offices, and meeting space total nearly 10,000 sq. ft. The decision to renovate these spaces followed a successful 2006 overhaul of the department’s undergraduate teaching laboratory, Pappalardo I, which provides shop space and machines for courses 2.005, 2.007, 2.674, and others.

Peabody Visiting Professorships in Mechanical Engineering

MechE inaugurated the distinguished Senior Visiting Professorships this spring with the visit of Professor T. Pedley FRS, the G.I. Taylor Professor of Fluid Mechanics (Emeritus) from DAMTP, University of Cambridge. Professor Pedley joined MechE on February 1, 2010 and taught a special topic class on Fluid Dynamics of Swimming (2.998). Under this program, MechE students, postdocs, and faculty will engage with highly distinguished visiting professors and promote collegiality and new collaborations between institutions.

These professorships are named in honor of Cecil Hobart Peabody (1855 – 1934). Peabody was a professor of steam engineering at MIT who helped establish the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering in 1893. After serving as the first chair of the program, Peabody continued to teach thermodynamics and steam engineering until his retirement in 1920. His contributions to the field include nine books on a wide spectrum of engineering topics.meche logo