BEST Lab, Berkeley California
Read here about a university lab that conducts tensegrity research.
The BEST lab is a mechanical engineering department lab that collaborates on tensegrity soft robotics with NASA Ames research scientist Vytas Sunspiral.
BEST is an acronym for each of three major lab theme areas. (1) The Berkeley Expert Systems Technologies (BEST) Lab addresses cutting edge research in applied Artificial Intelligence, Expert Systems, Human-Computer Interaction and Design Informatics. (2) The Berkeley Energy and Sustainable Technologies (BEST) Lab focuses on sustainable communities, sustainable product design, alternate energy and appropriate technologies. (3) The Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities (BEST) is a new collaboration on tensegrity soft robotics with NASA Ames.
The lab is under the direction of Professor Alice Agogino and is associated with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at University of California at Berkeley.
BEST Rapid Prototyping Kit
The BEST (Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities) Rapid Prototyping Kit is a set of instructions for constructing a 6 strut tensegrity robot with sensors, acutators and motors, that is capable of fulfilling basic robotic functions. The Kit is a joint project between UC Berkeley and NASA's Ames research center.
The Kit is based on a revolutionary soft robotics concept that integrates biomimetics and tensegrity structures. Tensegrity robots are composed of purely tensile and compressive components (cables and rods). The kit is intended for co-robot applications (where humans and robots work as partners) that are unlikely to harm their environment or human users. The application areas we are pursuing include space exploration, home health care and search & rescue. Super Ball Bots is one application envisioned for space applications, as the robots could be deployed forom a great hright and bounce to a landing before moving and exploring the surface.
In 2014 two generations of the kit had been developed:
- Balsa Wood Model has 6 balsa wood struts and 4 sensors for determining location and stress.
- Fiberglass Model has 6 fiberglass struts, 6 linear actuators that pull on its elastomers.
The kit generated a great deal of publicity in 2014 when its NASA Ames SUPERball Tensegrity Tensegrity project was operated a robot during a review session at NASA Headquarters under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. To demonstrate that the concept could be packed into tight space travel, our robot was carried by Adrian Agogino in a suitcase in packed luggage on his flight to D.C. The kit was also demostrated at DARPA headquarters.
The kit is being developed with an open approach to enable collaboration.
Links and references
 Video, "UC Berkeley BEST Tensegrity Robot Kits:. Prof. Alice Agogino describes two generations of the tensegrity robot kits developed in a joint project between UC Berkeley and NASA Ames. Published on Sep 20, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IFLJQnKuWs