The 2024 Research Excellence Exhibit at NYU Tandon featured several stand-out projects

large group photo of research excellence winners in front of exhibit gate

When journalists write about NYU Tandon’s annual Research Excellence Exhibit, it’s hard for them to resist the urge to make a laundry list of the eye-catching and innovative projects on display. An adaptive mountain bike for wheelchair users! An interactive bookshelf that encourages more reading! Robotic penguins! 

But who can blame them? With more than 40 projects from a variety of departments, academic centers, and K-12 initiatives, taking in the entire exhibit was a dizzying prospect. (And that’s not to mention the food stands and giveaways that lent the day a festive, fair-like atmosphere.)

But while the mood was festive, NYU Tandon’s faculty and student researchers are making serious contributions to healthcare, robotics, AI, and a host of other fields. 

Judges singled out three teams from Tandon’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program, which invites multidisciplinary teams of students to complete long-term, large-scale initiatives. 

Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) Category

First Place - The NYU Robotic Design Team’s TITAN Rover

The NYU Robotic Design Team took first place in the VIP category with its TITAN Rover, an autonomous vehicle built to traverse a lunar surface and excavate raw materials as part of NASA’s Lunabots competition.

Second Place - Reshaping Robotic-assisted Mobility with Soft Robotics

Second place went to the VIP team aimed at using soft robotics (which, as the name implies, involves materials that can deform, bend, and stretch, rather than the rigid metal and plastic of traditional robotics) to build wearable exoskeletons for people with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s.

Third Place - A Greener Concrete Jungle: Zero-Cement, Zero-Carbon, Zero-Mesh Concrete

A third prize went to a team that promised a “Greener Concrete Jungle” thanks to a new, more sustainable  form of concrete they had developed that eschewed the mesh and concrete typically included in the traditional mixture.

Judges were also tasked with choosing three other projects making significant impact in one of Tandon’s areas of research strength.

Areas of Excellence Category

First Place - From Contamination to Remediation: Hydrogel for Heavy Metal Removal

The first-place choice hit close to home — the Gowanus Canal, which was designated as a Superfund site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2013. The team behind “From Contamination to Remediation: Hydrogel for Heavy Metal Removal” developed a protein-based, thermal-sensitive material that when heated in a bioreactor, bonds with heavy metal pollutants in the water so that they can be removed. (Once the gel is cleaned, it can be reused.

Second Place - InclusiveRealms

Second prize went to InclusiveRealms, which aims to make virtual reality accessible to a broader range of users by developing usable, new hand gestures,

Third Place - A Computer vision-based Approach to Improve Urban Building Façade Inspections in Cities

A team using computer vision to improve building facade inspections (a costly and sometimes dangerous process) garnered the final prize of the day.

In her opening remarks Dean Jelena Kovačević had explained that 2024 marked the 170th year of engineering the future at Tandon, since its predecessor institutions — the NYU School of Civil Engineering and Architecture and the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute — had been founded in 1854. “I encourage you to think of the accomplishments Tandon researchers have made in past decades: mass-producing penicillin, landing men on the Moon, laying the foundation for next-generation wireless, and countless other life-altering accomplishments,” she had said. “The germs of those ideas started from people on this campus, and I think some of the powerful new research and technology you’ll witness today holds similarly life-altering potential.”

While only time will tell how accurate her prediction will be, the 2024 projects make it easy to believe.