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The Washington Research Foundation Fellowship
Sam Burden - Electrical Engineering
Sam's Project - Hierarchical Assembly for Self-Assembly Robots
In my group, we engineer robots that self-assemble into any desired shape. We've created techniques to optimize arbitrary assembly processes, but the tools don't scale well. I propose to perform assembly hierarchically, thus making our previous work applicable at many more scales.
[In other words...]
Self-assembly is a fascinating field because it's what drives most processes from the cellular down to the atomic level. We're trying to understand what characteristics a system must have in order to self-assemble, what final products it can reasonably assemble into, how we can prevent and correct errors in that final assembly, and how we can optimize the process to take as little time as possible or generate the largest yield.
When, how, & why did you get involved in research?
I started doing research during the summer before my Freshman year through the NASA Summer Undergraduate Research Program. I found out about that opportunity through the NASA Space Grant Scholarship. Classes become much more compelling as a result of participating in research. With every new topic in class, you get to think about how you can apply it to your project, or how it gives you a better understanding of the difficult topics that underlie your research.
What advice would you give to other student?
The Electrical Engineering Department has a web site that lists current research projects open to undergraduates; there are a lot of groups actively seeking students with specific skill sets. You'll almost certainly be able to get credit for it, and often a stipend.
I intend to go to graduate school and earn a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. I'm particularly interested in studying the design and control of useful, mass-market robots. After graduate school, I want to work in industry, ideally starting my own research-based company.
I would like to thank Professor Eric Klavins for his commitment to me over the past two years; his support underlies most of my successes here at UW.
Awards and Honors