Iowa State engineer develops power-saving tools to keep solar-powered robots in action

The small robots in Ran Dai’s basement lab at Iowa State University look like fancy electronic toys. But they’re really very smart. And they’re getting smarter. Dai, an Iowa State assistant professor and Black and Veatch Faculty Fellow in aerospace engineering, is developing power-management technologies that would allow land- and air-based robots to monitor solar conditions so they can maximize operating efficiency and battery life.

NSF awards maximum support to Iowa State-based Center for Biorenewable Chemicals

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has added three years and $8.48 million to the grant supporting the NSF Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals based at Iowa State University.

That brings NSF’s total funding of the center (known as CBiRC, “See-burk”) to the maximum allowed: 10 years and $35.26 million. NSF support of the center began in September 2008 and will end in August 2018. After that, the center must be self-supporting.

Iowa State, astronaut Clayton Anderson ready to teach undergrads about spaceflight ops

Twelve undergraduates will learn lessons in operational thinking during the second Spaceflight Operations Workshop to be offered by Iowa State’s Department of Aerospace Engineering. The students will learn from Clayton Anderson, a workshop coordinator who retired from NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013. Anderson said the workshop’s goal isn’t to train the next generation of astronauts. It’s to help students think in new ways.

Team PrISUm confident of quick laps at this month’s Formula Sun Grand Prix

The last time Team PrISUm raced around the Formula 1 track in Austin, Texas, the team turned the fastest lap of the 2014 Formula Sun Grand Prix. Iowa State’s solar racing car negotiated the 20-turn, 3.41-mile racetrack – including the 133-foot climb to turn 1 – in a quick 4 minutes and 35.285 seconds during last July’s grand prix.

Iowa State engineers develop micro-tentacles so tiny robots can handle delicate objects

The tiny tube circled an ant’s thorax, gently trapping the insect and demonstrating the utility of a microrobotic tentacle developed by Iowa State University engineers. “Most robots use two fingers and to pick things up they have to squeeze,” said Jaeyoun (Jay) Kim, an Iowa State University associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. “But these tentacles wrap around very gently.”

Cyclone Racing adds wings to formula racer, looks for quicker laps on track

Roger Steinforth has been through all the data from all the computer simulations. And he thinks adding wings to Cyclone Racing’s mini open-wheel racer could cut lap times by a second or two. That’s a big performance boost for the student-designed and student-built race cars of the formula racing series sponsored by SAE International, formerly the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Cyclone Space Mining pushing to remain a leader at NASA compeition

Early in the week, the mining robot of Cyclone Space Mining was mostly a pile of parts in the team’s campus workshop. And that pile was still too small. So team members were working at a bank of nearby computers, designing more parts for their mining machine. And Tyler Broich, the team’s vice president, was getting ready to order a few more blocks of aluminum that could be turned into all those new parts.