Letter from the Department Head

 

Gang Chen“MechE robots are complex machines built to make people’s lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable.”

Gang Chen, Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and Department Head


Dear Alumni and Friends,

The progress that’s been made in the field of robotics over the past 50 years is nothing short of remarkable. From Professor Robert Mann’s Boston Arm to Associate Professor Hugh Herr’s bionic limbs, the technology that’s been developed – some of it right here in the MIT Department of Mechanical Engineering – has transformed the way we view the role of robotics in our daily lives.

The robots being designed today in MechE aren’t the manifest fantasies of Hollywood writers and directors, but rather are complex machines built to make people’s lives healthier, safer, and more comfortable. Through advanced programming, clever mechanics, and optimized dynamics, we are developing the robots we need for the real 2015 and beyond, on our way to fulfilling our technological aspirations while at the same time providing valuable assistance to those who need it most.

For example, Professor Harry Asada is building wearable robotics that work as extra fingers, arms, and legs, extensions of the wearer’s own body; Professor Kamal Youcef-Toumi is developing a collaborative robot that can sense the needs and goals of humans working in tandem and support them; Professor John Leonard is creating robots that can simultaneously locate and navigate themselves in both known and unknown territory; Associate Professor Domitilla Del Vecchio is developing algorithms for on-board vehicle safety systems that take control of automobiles when necessary to avoid collisions; and Associate Professor Sangbae Kim is building a disaster-response humanoid robot that can run and jump on uneven terrain and yet pick up an ax and break down a door.

In this issue, you will also read about Professor Neville Hogan, who has developed a robotic aid for stroke victims; Professor Peko Hosoi, who is developing robots that can quickly change phase from rigid to squishy and back again; and Assistant Professor Alberto Rodriguez, who is building a dexterous robotic hand that can pick out and grasp small objects amidst various obstacles.

I hope you enjoy reading about the many aspects of our robotics research as much as I have.

As always, thank you for your ongoing support and friendship.

Sincerely,
Chen Signature

 

Gang Chen, Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and Department Head