Olin innovation is everywhere. You don't have to go to India or California to find an Oliner working hard on some amazing projects. Some students' summer plans lead them no further than the Academic Center. Research at Olin during this summer has been particularly lively. Sixty students are living on campus. Some have jobs in the administrative part of Olin (like myself), but many more are doing research. One such group that I had the pleasure of interviewing was Morgan Lavine (ECE) , Abe Feldman (ME), Clay Gimenez (ME), and Gray Thomas (E w/ robotics), of the class of '12. They're working for Drew Bennett in the Robotics lab this summer.
A SCOPE project (The Olin curriculum culminates in the Senior Capstone Program in Engineering), in which students engage in a significant engineering project under realistic constraints for an actual client) brought them to the lab. Vishwa Robotics is sponsoring these studentsfrom January 2011 to December 2011. As the SCOPE website says, "The Vishwa Robotics and Automation SCOPE team is working to produce miniature, multi-functional landing gear for Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs). By iterating through research, ideation, design, and fabrication, the team will optimize small, lightweight, durable, and low-power landing gear that will enable future MAVs to perch on a variety of surfaces. This is the second phase in an ongoing, multiphase research project awarded to Vishwa Robotics and is being funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory." This essentially means that the Air Force, in conjunction with Vishwa, is having these four Olin students design a landing system to allow small planes to land on moving targets, not unlike birds, and that pretty much all of it was under an NDA.
They are also working on a plethora of other projects for Dave, including but not limited to modifying and rebuilding Hydroid's Reamus AUV for deeper travel, and helping out with the SAIC boat. The idea behind this project is that various countries have submarines that cannot be tracked by current technology. By building autonomous boats with radar capabilities, once a submarine is found at a foreign port, the boat can follow it by staying within radar range, and we can track the boat.
Like most Olin students, Abe, Clay, Gray, and Morgan are happiest when they get to bury themselves elbow deep in work and just chug along, but often bureaucracy gets in their way. They would prefer to cad all day like they did in Mech Proto than do the less exciting but necessary report-writing or meetings, but they realize that after every report they can get back into the 'fun' part of their work. They say that Dave is a big help with the administrative tasks. They are learning a lot - for instance, Morgan said that as an ECE in an ME project, he's gained a plethora of skills that will be quite useful if he chooses to go into an ME field at any point.
Interviewing Abe, Clay, Gray, and Morgan was a pleasure and it was really cool to see exactly what they were working on, even if I can't actually write about it. I'm sure that the technologies that they are developing for Dave Barret will get 'out there', along with the work of Oliners everywhere.