Current Issue

July 16, 2008

Vol. 108, No. 16

Thesis work ranges from ‘slow food’ to a robotic eel

Published in the July 16, 2008, issue


Yang Dai, '08
Zachary Ruchman '10
Yang Dai, '08

Yang Dai, mechanical and aerospace engineering

Summary: My thesis was to design a robotic eel that is capable of swimming, diving, and maneuvering around obstacles autonomously. Innovations over previous designs included the use of a novel cable method for generating thrust, pectoral fins for diving and maintaining depth, and an onboard wireless camera and radio receiver for data transfer with an offboard PC.

Adviser: Professor Alexander Smits

Reason for selecting the topic: I’ve always had an interest in robotics and biology, and I knew Professor Smits previously had advised some really cool marine-inspired robot projects, so I met with him to discuss potential topics. Ultimately, my thesis was partially an extension of previous theses and partially development of ideas that my adviser’s research group came up with when playing with a toy robotic shark.

Biggest challenge: My computer’s operating system. Interfacing my various electronic components was a nightmare, and compatibility issues led to major delays in testing. Eventually, I just wiped the PC and installed another system.

Plans after graduation: I’m moving to Seattle to work for Boeing as a manufacturing engineer. I’m planning on going back to school in a few years to continue studying engineering.

Courtny Hopen '08
Zachary Ruchman '10
Courtny Hopen '08
A page from Hopen's thesis
Courtesy Courtny Hopen
A page from Hopen's thesis

Courtny Hopen, English

Summary: My thesis, “Uriel’s Flood,” is a graphic novel set in a futuristic New York City threatened by global warming. The plot focuses on the relationship between two young Orthodox Jews, Uriel and Sahra, as they deal with obstacles such as supernatural assassins, arranged marriages, environmental disasters, and mystical possession. The comic combines images, prose, and poetry and is inspired by works such as Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic, Alan Moore’s Promethea, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.

Adviser: Professor James Richardson. I was also greatly aided by the staff of OIT’s New Media Center, the deans and staff of Rockefeller College, and several classmates and friends.

Reason for selecting the topic: So that I could explore the relationship between words and images. Originally I wanted to do this through writing poetry alone, but I quickly realized that in addition to poetic images, I wanted to include literal images in my thesis. My father, Stuart Hopen ’75, also gave me great advice, and is the one who indirectly inspired me to choose this project by sharing his love for comic books and literature with me throughout my life.

Biggest challenge: Producing the artwork (usually, there’s at least an artist/writer team for works in color). Each page required a lot of time to produce: I had to draw the images, paint them, scan the painting, adjust it so the colors would turn out well, and then lay the page out and add text. Luckily for me, Rockefeller College opened a media center that was accessible to students 24 hours a day a couple of weeks before my thesis was due, complete with a nearby coffee machine.

Plans after graduation: I’m moving to New Orleans to take a year off before going to graduate school for a degree in art therapy. During my time in New Orleans, I hope to continue writing and painting, as well as doing volunteer work.

 
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CURRENT ISSUE: July 16, 2008