01/01/09 — Tim Jacobi adores hurtling through the air, whipping around hairpin turns and feeling his stomach do loops. The Berkeley Engineering master's candidate in mechanical engineering is a roller coaster junkie. "It's such a rush, basically," explains Jacobi, who traces his passion to his early teens. These days, Jacobi is experiencing a new thrill: He designs amusement park rides. His latest assignment involves devising the launch system for what is expected to be the world's fastest pneumatically launched roller coaster.
Devices & inventions
11/02/08 — Paul Jacobs (B.S. '84, M.S. '86, Ph.D. '89 EECS) sees no limits to what next-generation cell phones will do. As a development engineer, an executive and now CEO of Qualcomm, the San Diego-based wireless technology company, Jacobs has played a major role in the transformation of the mobile phone. Along with their original function in voice communications, the devices have evolved into wireless computers, music players, digital cameras, navigational tools, and medical diagnostic and monitoring equipment. And, says Jacobs, still more advances are on the way. "Innovation comes from being open to diverse ideas," says Jacobs, who holds more than 35 patents for his inventions. "The world changes and you change."
10/02/08 — Most people hope to live healthy, independent lives through their elderly years. But that's not always the case because, as people age, they and their loved ones have to worry about not only illnesses, but also injuries, especially from falls. For seniors, falling is the leading cause of injury deaths, nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions. But one team of researchers is working to enable the elderly to live independently through a network of body sensors. The project could allow computers to remotely monitor and analyze the activity of seniors so that, if they fall or stop moving, help can arrive quickly.
09/02/08 — Pilotless aircraft let the military quickly gather intelligence about hot spots without having to put pilots at risk or wait for the next imaging satellite flyover. But many tasks, both military and civilian, can be accomplished better by teams of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) programmed to collaborate. Multiple autonomous UAVs can cover more ground than a single plane, and with their own smarts, they demand less human attention. To develop this technology, mechanical engineering professor Karl Hedrick co-directs the Center for Collaborative Control of Unmanned Vehicles.
08/02/08 — The topic has become a persistent one in engineering and entrepreneurial circles: Is the United States losing its technological edge? Reports like last month's “America's engineering crisis” on CNBC's Street Signs, on which I had the opportunity to appear with my esteemed colleague Jim Plummer of Stanford, fuel the perception that U.S. engineers are becoming extinct.
08/02/08 — As a student, Chandrakant Patel (B.S.'83 ME) rode the bus every day from the low-income Graystone Hotel in San Francisco's Tenderloin, where he lived, to the verdant UC Berkeley campus, where he studied. Today, a lot has changed for Patel, now a fellow at HP Laboratories in Palo Alto, leading the charge to develop a new generation of energy-efficient data centers.
06/02/08 — Someday, you might read the morning's news headlines on the back of your cereal box. That's the latest possibility demonstrated by the EECS Organic Electronics Group. They have recently been experimenting with zinc oxide, a familiar ingredient in sunblock and diaper cream that has the special properties of working as a semiconductor while also being 93 percent transparent. The researchers already have a palette of inks that can deposit conducting, semiconducting and insulating materials-the building blocks of all solid-state electronics-on a variety of surfaces.
05/02/08 — Computer mice are a weighty matter for BingYune Chen. Chen, a senior who graduates this month in bioengineering, is studying how weight affects the speed, accuracy and ease of use of a computer mouse. “It's a new issue,” says the 22-year-old Chen, who helped conduct a pilot project as an undergraduate researcher at the UCSF–UCB Ergonomics Laboratory, where he is now an employee. While extensive research has been done on the design of computer mice, Chen says, little is known about mouse weight and its impact on performance.
04/02/08 — For years, nanoengineers have known how to create tiny wire transistors, sensors, light emitters and other useful components, but there's been no sure way to assemble them into integrated circuits because they're too small to manipulate. “You could look at things under a microscope, but you couldn't touch them,” explains EECS professor Ming Wu. But Wu and his research group have developed “optoelectronic tweezers” that can individually address wires and other nanoscale objects and convey them to precise locations. This has been the field's most challenging problem, and solving it paves the way for an entire class of devices from microdisplays to medical imaging tools.
03/02/08 — UC Berkeley just conducted an unprecedented collaborative experiment involving 100 cars equipped with GPS-enabled cell phones to monitor real-time traffic flow over a seven-hour period on a 10-mile stretch of I-880. You can read more details about the project and its success in Abby Cohn's delightful story in this month's issue.
03/02/08 — Early in his career, Network Appliance cofounder James Lau ventured out in hopes of developing one of the first hand-held personal computers. His PDA would have used a stylus to enter notes, appointments and other data, but after six months of work in 1991, he scrapped the project. But Lau never regretted his unsuccessful quest. When it comes to innovation, “there's no guarantee,” he says. “That's part of the exploration. You just need to move on.” Move on, he did. Today, Network Appliance has Fortune 1000 status, and last month James Lau received the 2007 Berkeley Engineering Innovation Award for lifetime achievement.
03/02/08 — On February 8, 26-year-old mechanical engineering student Kenneth Armijo hit the road in a unique experiment exploring the use of GPS-equipped cell phones as traffic monitors. Nearly 150 UC Berkeley students were behind-the-wheel participants in the “Mobile Century” test. Navigating a fleet of 100 cars carrying special mobile phones, the student drivers traveled up and down a 10-mile stretch of the Nimitz Freeway for more than seven hours. The result was a computerized map bristling with tiny flags for each car and its velocity, creating a detailed picture of actual traffic conditions.
02/02/08 — For 10 years, mechanical engineering professor Dennis Lieu moonlighted as an instructor in the martial art of taekwondo. Concerned about safety, he began testing commercial martial arts headgear that had become standard and required for competitions. His results were startling: many of the helmets failed his tests and would not prevent injuries. His continued research has produced the first technical standard for martial arts protective headgear.
01/02/08 — EECS undergraduate Henry Wang had never heard of Enrico Caruso until last year. That's a surprising admission given that the 21-year-old senior now spends hours weekly scrutinizing the famed tenor's rendition of La Donna è Mobile. Wang is part of an ambitious project that seeks to preserve historic collections of music, speeches and other audio recordings dating back to the earliest days of recorded sound.
01/02/08 — In remote villages along Nicaragua's Caribbean coast, the seemingly simple act of switching on a light is anything but simple. It's usually impossible. Mathias Craig (B.S'01 CEE) wants to change that. Craig, 29, is cofounder of blueEnergy, a nonprofit organization that is harnessing the power of the wind to illuminate homes, schools and rural clinics in an impoverished region where nearly 80 percent of the population have no electricity. Since 2004, blueEnergy has brought wind turbines to six Nicaraguan communities, providing electricity to some 1,500 people.
12/02/07 — Using a device that's roughly the size and price of an upscale cell phone, Berkeley Engineers hope to halt the spread of diseases afflicting millions in the developing world. Dubbed SeroScreen, the handheld instrument will test blood and other bodily fluids for the presence of infection and deliver an on-site diagnosis within minutes for influenza, skin infections, mosquito-borne viruses and other ailments.