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Friday, June 2, 2017

Smarter Phones, Faster Drones, Thinking Robots

Draper Fellows present technology breakthroughs at thesis celebration day 

CAMBRIDGE, MA – It was a day of scientific breakthroughs recently at Draper when new research was presented by 25 graduating Master’s and PhD students whose graduate study has been supported by the Draper Fellow Program. The research was wide-ranging, but the applications were real-world: robots that can think, space suits that can feel, prosthetics that can soothe nerves and satellites that can talk to your phone.
The event was the Graduating Draper Fellow Highlights Poster Session, in which graduating Fellows present their thesis research in addressing and solving some of the most challenging technology and engineering problems. 

The 2017 celebration did not disappoint. Will Tomlinson, a PhD graduate from Northeastern University, presented technology to use the body’s naturally generated bioelectrical signals to verify a person’s identity—a method that may prove tougher to spoof than fingerprint, facial recognition and iris/retina based-detection. 

Another student, Mitchell Plyler, a Master’s graduate from MIT, explained use of machine learning to improve the precision of airdrops for military and humanitarian aid, a technique that can help avoid lost, damaged and captured aerial supplies. Ryan Silva, a PhD graduate from Boston University, refined a technique to separate blood and bacteria using acoustics, a promising improvement over the more cell-damaging process used in a centrifuge. 

The 2017 Draper Fellows graduating class includes 25 students from Boston University, Brown University, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Tufts University and the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Each year the program typically sponsors the tuition and stipend of 55-65 graduate students.

Sheila Hemami, Director of Strategic Technical Opportunities at Draper, said the focus of the program, which she directs, is identifying and solving challenging research problems, and then demonstrating the validity of the solutions in appropriate applications. “By combining the requirement for scientific and engineering innovation with a real-world application, we push the research not only in the direction of a scholarly contribution but also in the direction of impact. The Draper Fellow Program provides students with the opportunity to actualize their research results.”

Alumni of the Draper Fellow Program, founded in 1974, comprise more than 1,200 Draper Fellows from both civilian and military backgrounds and who are excelling worldwide in technical, corporate, government, academic and entrepreneurship sectors. Notable alumni include military officers, executives at Fortune 500 companies and five NASA astronauts.

Details about the program, including how to apply, are available at Draper.

Members of the 2017 graduating class attend MIT, Northeastern, Harvard, Brown, Boston University, Tufts and the University of Massachusetts Draper graduated 25 students from seven universities in its 2017 Draper Fellows Program Alumni of the Draper Fellow Program, founded in 1974, comprise more than 1,200 leaders from both civilian and military backgrounds Draper typically sponsors the tuition and stipend of 55-65 graduate students each year
Capabilities Used
Human-Centered Solutions

Draper has continued to advance the understanding and application of human-centered engineering to optimize the interaction and capabilities of the human’s ability to better understand, assimilate and convey information for critical decisions and tasks. Through its Human-Centered Solutions capability, Draper enables accomplishment of users’ most critical missions by seamlessly integrating technology into a user’s workflow. This work leverages human-computer interaction through emerging findings in applied psychophysiology and cognitive neuroscience. Draper has deep skills in the design, development, and deployment of systems to support cognition – for users seated at desks, on the move with mobile devices or maneuvering in the cockpit of vehicles – and collaboration across human-human and human-autonomous teams.

Biomedical Solutions

Draper’s Biomedical Solutions capability centers on the application of microsystems, miniaturized electronics, computational modeling, algorithm development and image and data analytics applied to a range of challenges in healthcare and related fields. Draper fills that critical engineering niche that is required to take research or critical requirements and prototype or manufacture realizable solutions.  Some specific examples are MEMS, microfluidics and nanostructuring applied to the development of wearable and implantable medical devices, organ-assist devices and drug-delivery systems. Novel neural interfaces for prosthetics and for treatment of neurological conditions are being realized through a combination of integrated miniaturized electronics and microfabrication technologies.

Materials Engineering & Microfabrication

Draper continues to develop its expertise in designing, characterizing and processing materials at the macro-, micro- and nanoscales. Understanding the physical properties and behaviors of materials at these various scales is vital to exploit them successfully in designing components or systems. This enables the development and integration of biomaterials, 3D printing and additive manufacturing, wafer fabrication, chemical and electrochemical materials and structural materials for application to system-level solutions required of government and commercial sponsors.

Autonomous Systems

Draper combines mission planning, PN&T, situational awareness, and novel GN&C designs to develop and deploy autonomous platforms for ground, air, sea and undersea needs. These systems range in complexity from human-in-the-loop to systems that operate without any human intervention. The design of these systems generally involves decomposing the mission needs into sets of scenarios that result in trade studies that lead to an optimized solution with key performance requirements.  Draper continues to advance the field of autonomy through research in the areas of mission planning, sensing and perception, mobility, learning, real-time performance evaluation and human trust in autonomous systems.

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