By Bill Kisliuk
Robots led the way at Tech Forum 2015, the annual showcase for the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The Feb. 3 event, sponsored by Raytheon, drew more than 500 people, a record for Tech Forum.
Marc Raibert, co-founder of leading robotics firm Boston Dynamics, offered the keynote address at UCLA’s Northwest Auditorium. Raibert showed videos displaying the remarkable agility, durability and computer vision of quadripedal robots developed by the company.
He said the age of highly functional robots working a variety of settings is “just around the corner.” The main remaining technological challenge, Raibert said, is improving the power supply of robotic devices.
Dennis Hong, a UCLA professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, offered an entertaining and informative demonstration of his lab’s robots. Hong brought to the stage THOR-OP, a humanoid robot that will compete at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in June in Pomona. The competition will test researchers’ ability to design robots that can perform disaster-response tasks in situations too dangerous for humans.
In the poster session, sponsored by Northrop Grumman, UCLA Engineering students presented more than 160 posters depicting their cutting-edge research for an audience of faculty, alumni and industry representatives. Nicole Darling, a chemical and biomolecular engineering graduate student working in the area of hydrogel biomaterials for tissue regeneration, won the competition for best poster.
Other poster contest categories and winners include: Application – Phuong Nguyen, bioengineering; Fundamental Science – Diana Chien, chemical and biomolecular engineering; Engineering – Andrew Pan, electrical engineering; Poster Design – Jingming Dong, computer science; Verbal Presentation – Eugenia Zah, chemical and biomolecular engineering.
During afternoon breakout sessions sponsored by Cislo & Thomas and Lockheed Martin, UCLA Engineering faculty highlighted their recent innovations in fields ranging from sustainable energy to healthcare, and from big data to the applications of robotics in medical care.
UCLA Engineering Dean Vijay K. Dhir presented Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy awards to three firms with a long track record of supporting the school and engineering education: Microsoft, Broadcom and CTS Cement.