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Projects with World-Changing Potential

The 2018 Research Expo Showcased the Exciting, Problem-Solving Work Being Done at NYU Tandon – and Some of It Was Fun as Well!

Research Expo Student

When Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan welcomed guests to NYU Tandon’s 2018 Research Expo, he explained that the event has always had three key purposes: to offer the hundreds of students and faculty members involved to exhibit their work and celebrate their accomplishments; to introduce the school and its work to members of the general public; and to bring attention to projects lending themselves to future commercialization and further institutional support.

The Expo succeeded admirably on all counts — despite the threatening weather that necessitated a move from the MetroTech Plaza into the Tandon gym. The storm clouds did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the local schoolchildren, curious Brooklyn residents, and VIP guests like Borough President Eric Adams, Senator Martin Golden, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, NYU President Andrew Hamilton, and Tandon Board of Overseers Chair Chandrika Tandon, who braved the possible downpour to attend.

Senator Martin Golden, Tandon Board of Overseers Chair Chandrika Tandon, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, and Borough President Eric Adams
Senator Martin Golden, Tandon Board of Overseers Chair Chandrika Tandon, Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, and Borough President Eric Adams at the 2018 Research Expo.

Addressing attendees, Adams related an anecdote about his time farming in Alabama: one day when he was moving hay his tractor broke down, he explained. Thinking back to the small motorized Cambodian vehicles known as “tuk tuks,” he hooked the hay to the back of a motorcycle and transported it that way. “If your point of view and knowledge base are too narrow, you will not be able to successfully solve problems,” he asserted. “It’s diverse teams like the ones exhibiting here that can really make a difference, and the research on display today proves that.”

Hamilton agreed, pointing out that Tandon is among the most diverse schools of engineering in the nation. He cited the Research Expo as a chance to see the fruits of the institution’s dynamic energy and focus on finding practical solutions to global problems.

The other speakers had similar plaudits for Tandon and its role in making Brooklyn a hub of innovation, with Lentol characterizing the school as “a driver of technology and the future” and Golden expressing confidence that Tandon would continue to be a major pipeline for the STEM talent the world needs.   

The projects on display came from a wide variety of departments, academic centers, and K-12 initiatives, and taken as a whole, the array was almost dizzying. Attendees were faced with difficult choices of what to look at first. The augmented-reality game that helps its players prepare for natural disasters? The revolutionary lightweight building material that incorporates micro-balloons made of glass? The robotic cart that could lighten the workload of human airline stewards considerably? The totally self-contained and self-sustaining urban farm that offered visitors a sample of the freshest tomatoes they’d ever enjoy? The app that learns a user’s tastes and points them to museum exhibits and artworks they might enjoy?

In the end, three projects in the crowded field were chosen by judges (see below) as favorites: 

First Place: The “Citizen-Science Platform for Enhanced Telerehabilitation”
exhibited by mechanical engineering students Roni Barak Ventura and Sam Richmond, who aimed to provide users with encouragement and motivation to complete prescribed rehabilitation exercises through haptic feedback. (The two work in Professor Maurizio Porfiri’s Dynamical Systems Lab.)

Second Place: The “Decentralized Robot Swarm Smart-Control Interface”
exhibited by Sai Prasanth Krishnamoorthy and Ezra Idy, also aspiring mechanical engineers, who showcased a group of small robots unconnected to a communications network but able to work together in formation, making them potentially useful in such applications as search-and-rescue or exploration. (The two work in Professor Vikram Kapila’s Mechatronics Lab.)

Third Place: An “Engineered Enzyme for Detoxification of Common Pesticides”
exhibited by Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering students Andrew Olsen and Priya Katyal, who recently won funding from PowerBridgeNY, a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)-sponsored proof-of-concept center, for their development of a low-cost and ecologically friendly enzyme for the remediation and detoxification of a class of common pesticides, a project of great interest to vintners and other growers of high-value crops. (The two work in Professor Jin Montclare’s Montclare Lab for Protein Engineering and Molecular Design.)  

The uniformly high quality of the projects made judging hard, but served, as Sreenivasan said, as a testament to the dedication of Tandon’s faculty members, the fine caliber of its students, and the success of the school’s focus on technology that benefits society. It served, as well, as inspiration to all the young attendees whose interest in STEM was sparked and who may one day be displaying a project of their own at Tandon.

Meet the Judges

  • Gerrit Roessler, German Center for Research and Innovation NY
  • Joann Halpern, Hasso-Plattner Instititute New York
  • Steve Kuyan, Tandon Future Labs
  • Michael Holland, CUSP
  • Pamela Morris, NYU Steinhardt
  • Dan O'Sullivan, NYU Tisch
  • Filippo Alimonda, VirtualAPT
  • Chitra Sethi, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)