Grad Student Profile: Meet Gabriel Haberfeld
Gabriel is a PhD student in the department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, where he is transitioning his studies into the area of large-scale robotics applications and machine learning. He decided on Illinois for his graduate studies after considering several universities.
“I had the opportunity to visit the campus and I was extremely impressed not only by the facilities but also by how welcoming everyone was. I felt at home, and that was the deciding factor for me,” he said.
What initially drew Gabriel to engineering is the joy he finds in solving problems. He said the field allows him to solve problems in an intelligent way, and gives him the tools to tackle important problems in his everyday life.
He competed in the Discovery Channel’s second and third seasons of the BattleBots show. He was on the RioBotz team, and their bot “Minotaur” had a 4-1 record during its run in the second season. The show follows a robot combat competition in which designers build, operate, and battle their robots in an elimination-style tournament. Gabriel said the show presented a very level playing field, as there were teams comprised of families and professionals, as well as international and university teams, like his own. He also appreciated that the show has a simple concept that requires great creativity, and said he would not be pursuing his PhD now if he had not been part of the show.
Once he arrived at Illinois, Gabriel began work on robotics to be applied with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Two robots, Q2 Arm and Delta Manipulator, have contrasting applications. Q2 Arm is a two-link manipulator with two actuators. It is capable of lifting higher payloads than Delta Manipulator and is lighter and easier to control. However, Delta Manipulator is capable of performing more complex tasks thanks to its more intricate geometry. These bots have great potential for applications for indoor tasks, particularly in the realm of elder care. The team has been working on ways to make people more comfortable with the idea of a UAV in their homes, and the team has been collaborating with other scientists and psychologists to study the human factors implications of personal robots or UAVs.
Gabriel earned a bachelor’s degree in control and automation engineering from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro in 2015, and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Illinois in 2017. He said joining a lab or group during his undergraduate years helped him gather skills often not learned in the classroom.