Links to student design projects

Laval Robot

An Interesting Planar Robot at Laval

Students of Prof. Clement Gosselin at the Laval University Robotics Laboratory demonstrate a four-degree of freedom planar robot. I particularly like the demonstration of its use as a gripper that does a cartwheel just for fun.

Origami Art BYU

Origami Art at BYU

Origami Art BYU

Origami Art BYU

Mechanical engineering students in Prof. Larry Howell’s Compliant Mechanisms Research Group designed and constructed this kinetic structure for the BYU Museum of Art. It illustrates paper folding known as origami.

Kaustubh and Mark

Mark Plecnik, PhD and Kaustubh Sonawale, PhD

Kaustubh and Mark

Kaustubh and Mark

Mark Plecnik and Kaustubh Sonawale both successfully presented their dissertation defense this week. Their kinematics research has resulted new computational procedures that have made possible many new designs.

See Mark’s web page and Kaustubh’s web page for examples of interesting devices that are the result of their research.

RaceLabTV wants to follow FSAE Teams



Ian Campbell and Jerry Magana are a director/producer team from the Los Angeles area (also see, who are hoping to highlight the collegiate engineering design challenges involved in Racecar Engineering, specifically the Collegiate Formula SAE events. This project is called

Having worked with student race teams for almost 15 years, I know there is drama, thrills, disappointment, and amazing engineering team effort under high pressure, but I have no idea how this might translate to a video series.

MIT has regularly generated videos following various teams in the 2.007 design course. There are similar videos for the CalTech ME72 design competition. However, in both cases there is much less on the line.

FSAE race teams can involve large numbers of young engineering students committed to several years of effort. It deserves better exposure, but seems a difficult subject.


Rescue Robotics: Project Based Learning


UCI, Vital Link and Orange County high schools and colleges are working together to organize a Rescue Robotics event in May of 2015. The Rescue Robotics challenge provides an opportunity for students in information and communication technology programs across Orange County to test their skills using ground and aerial robots to find and identify simulated human survivors.

Rescue Robotics Challenge Details

The Rescue Robotics competition has three main principles, each of which imposes difficult challenges on the student team which are important for the real world application of this kind of robot.

1 – Each robot must be safely autonomous. In other words, the robot needs to be programmed to do the work of finding survivors on its own without help from the student team.  This is an important need if robots are to help us search disaster areas.

2 – The robot must work in the natural environment on uneven terrain, with variable sunlight and wind. This is a challenge for most robot sensors, but important in a real disaster situation.

3 – The teams are allowed to use up to five robots which can be either ground or aerial robots. More robots makes it easier to find survivors, but increases complexity of programming the communication and coordination of the search.

A speedy six-wheeled search robot that uses an Android phone as its processor. 

Rescue Robotics Workshop

At a recent Rescue Robotics Workshop teachers from across Orange County learned to build and program ground robots that use an Android phone as the processor and sensor system. They also learned how to build a quadcopter with an Arduino processor to search from the air.

The quadcopter is a small and reliable aerial search robot. 
Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 11.00.57 AMClose-up on Arduino microprocessor apparatus on aerial robot. 

Rescue Robotics is a project based learning program which is an extension of the Performance Engineering Program in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace engineering at UCI, in which UCI students learn racecar engineering, build a racecar, and put it in competition against other schools.  The goal of both these classes is for students to learn engineering project skills and either take them to college or directly to industry.

Just like in UCI’s Racecar Engineering class, students create a useful product, which is just another goal of this educational program.  The crucial difference between the two classes is that Rescue Robotics is focused on information and communication technology rather than engineering and manufacturing.  Clearly the class involves engineering and manufacturing, but the spotlight is really on finding an effective and interesting way to teach students computer programming skills with real world application.  An overarching goal of this program is to strengthen industry in Orange County by enrolling 17,000 Orange County students in healthcare, engineering, and information technology career paths by 2017-18.

Freshman Project: Quadcopters

The Rescue Robotics program has strong connections to the UCI Freshman Project course Engr 7, where Learning by doing in a competitive team environment has been proven to be an engaging, exciting, and effective way to teach engineering to students.  Classes like this open up career and educational paths for students starting from a young age.

UCI’s freshman project class, Engineering 7, organized by Lily Wu, has over 200 new students building quadcopters.  The two videos below show some of their work.

Read more
More about Rescue Robotics can be found at the Design News Blog.

UCI’s 2013 Fall Design Review

Over 80 student teams from across the Samueli School of Engineering presented their senior project plans for 2013-2014. Follow their progress at the Winter Design Review in March 2014.

2013 Solar Decathlon

Inside Irvine Fall 2013

Inside Irvine Fall 2013

Inside Irvine has an article about the 2013 Solar Decathlon and XPO at the Orange County Great Park. Select this link to access the on-line magazine. See page 5 for descriptions of each of the 20 Universities competing in this event.

Introduction to Racecar Engineering

The UCI summer program Introduction to Racecar Engineering concluded with a track day on Saturday, August 3. Select this link to see slideshows of the activities.

Energy Invitational Test Day 5-4-2013


Saturday, May 5, UCI hosted seven local high school race teams to test their cars for the Energy Invitational. It was impressive to see the quality of their work and the variety of their designs. Select this link to see photographs of the event on Facebook.

Translational Linkages from Kempe

These linkages guide a platform in straight-line translation. They are generalizations of traditional straight-line linkages and can be found in Kempe’s How to Draw a Straight Line. Mark Plecnik generated the SolidWorks files and animations to help my MAE 183 students.