The Master of Engineering Capstone team Laika has won the 2017 Fung Institute Mission Award for their work on the ULTRA (Underactuated Lightweight Tensegrity Robotic Assistive) Spine Tensegrity Quadruped robot. This award is voted on by staff at the Fung Institute, and is given to the MEng team that best exemplifies the mission of the institute: to transform engineers and scientists into leaders who can take risks and develop technical, social and economic innovations. The team, made up of MEng students Lara Janse van Vurren, Asher Saghian, Shu Jun Tan, Robel Tweeldebirhan and Huajing (Shirley) Zhao, worked closely with ME Professor Alice Agogino and doctoral student mentor Andrew (Drew) Sabelhaus on the project.
According to Laika, "The ULTRA Spine’s goal is to traverse uneven terrain to rescue survivors from disasters and assist in the relief efforts by carrying supplies to areas in need. The ULTRA Spine would allow for a human to remotely control the quadruped robot across the uneven terrain and into tight spaces to rescue victims in the rubble without introducing risk to another human’s life. There have been 408 deaths in the past 20 years, and 212 of the casualties were volunteers who entered risky environments because of natural disasters (IFRC 2015). Future deaths could be prevented by utilizing autonomous technology to explore the regions of disasters and assist in the rescue of victims from the aftermath."