A shorter week for the program – but an exciting one nonetheless!
On Monday, the class was lucky enough to attend the Wyss Institute Symposium on Bio-Inspired Robotics! The day was filled with speakers from across the globe, describing new innovations in the world of robotics: making them softer, smarter, and safer. We heard about improvements in robot navigation and communication from Manuela Veloso and Raffaello D’Andrea – both of whom have participated in the RoboCup: a competition to design teams of soccer-playing robots! Several speakers gave presentations on developments in the field of exoskeleton design, including ones that can increase human performance, skeletons that can be 3D printed for children who are still growing, and even soft exoskeletons that can be worn more comfortably than their rigid counterparts. These topics and more made for an inspiring and educational visit!
In class, we began working on internal anatomy, focusing on the digestive, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems! The students dissected their dogfish and cats, exposing the thoracic (chest area) and abdominal cavities to get an up-close look at these systems. The differences between the two were striking, obvious examples aside (like gills vs lungs). For example, the dogfish is a type of shark, and as such has a large, fatty liver that it uses to keep itself from sinking! In contrast, the cat’s liver is much smaller, but its digestive tract is far longer than the dogfish’s! Their hearts are different as well: dogfish hearts have only 2 chambers, while cat hearts have 4 chambers, like our own!
Finally, our class had a visit from Sara Hendren, an artist and design researcher who teaches design and runs the Adaptation and Ability Group lab at Olin College. Much of her work revolves around empowering the handicapped population, enabling them to do what they want and love rather than what society expects of them. She co-founded the Accessible Icon Project, which aims to replace the standard accessibility icon with the more dynamic, active one shown here. The movement has been met with a wave of approval, and institutions across the country are picking it up, including the US Treasury and the Social Security Administration. Ms. Hendren’s class at Olin has also designed specialized equipment for handicapped individuals, including: a portable, collapsible podium for public speakers and a prosthetic arm for a one-armed man who wanted some help with rock-climbing.
Stay tuned for next week, when we continue with internal anatomy and head out into the field with Professor Perlman!