Robotics in MechSE: Hae-Won Park


MechSE assistant professor Hae-Won Park has been awarded funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design a hybrid robot that can glide, land, and walk. His groundbreaking design is inspired by the flying squirrel. Park’s robot would be dropped from an aerial vehicle, glide like a flying squirrel, then land and continue walking on a variety of terrains, with proposed applications in reconnaissance missions, military scouting, and disaster response efforts, particularly in difficult-to-access or hazardous environments. Park’s flying squirrel will address the flaws of past attempts at this type of robot. The combined mobility of walking and flying will give the bots the large range of existing flying robots as well as the long-lasting operational hours of a ground vehicle. It will also boast the ability to gather information about environmental conditions, crucial to the robot’s missions; they can work independently or in swarms to share environmental awareness via a mobile sensor network. His design includes development of soft silicone wing structures that attach to the robot’s limbs and allow it to glide. The body frame is 3D-printed with lightweight materials—allowing for fast prototyping—like carbon fiber composite material, engineered plastics, and compliant resins.

Robotics in MechSE
One of the world’s fastest-growing fields, robotics is a highly interdisciplinary branch of engineering and science that includes electrical engineering, computer science, and of course mechanical engineering, among many other concentrations. Advances in robotic technologies are hurtling forward as rapidly as their fields of implementation are expanding. And many of the challenges in robotics lie not only in making breakthrough developments, but in finding ways to make them affordable for widespread use throughout society.

Robotics is a growing field within the MechSE Department as well. New professors who predominantly study robotics have been hired in recent years. Many tenured faculty also have steered their research toward robotic technologies or have discovered uses for robotics in their existing work. This section provides a look at some of the robotics research and applications currently undertaken in MechSE.