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Machines and technology showcased at Draper Lab expo

George Costa (S.B. 2000) shows fellow alumnus Jamie Anderson (S.M. 1992, Ph.D.) the ornithopter he's working on at Draper Lab at the last week's Tech Expo.
George Costa (S.B. 2000) shows fellow alumnus Jamie Anderson (S.M. 1992, Ph.D.) the ornithopter he's working on at Draper Lab at the last week's Tech Expo.
Photo / Donna Coveney

A black, bird-like unmanned aerial vehicle for battlefield reconnaissance called an Ornithopter and a metal and rubber robotic snake (a search-and-rescue robot that could make its way into rubble for rescue operations) were among the devices flapping, crawling and beaming laser light for the benefit of the visitors to the Draper Lab Technology Exposition.

Members of Draper Lab staff and administration, others from the MIT community and students from Cambridge public schools were among those attending the Tech Expo on Oct. 2-3.

With demonstrations, video presentations and hands-on activities, Draper showcased projects and technologies in several areas, including Special Operations, which is dedicated to improving U.S. intelligence and special operations capabilities; Tactical Systems, which addresses integrated target prosecution for the military; Biomedical Engineering, which develops technologies and novel systems for disease treatment and oversight; Strategic Systems, which supports the U.S. Navy's requirement to extend the service life of the Trident II guidance system to 2042; and Space Systems, which develops autonomous, reliable flight systems to meet the need for advanced space-based systems.

Actuality Systems demonstrated its Perspecta spatial 3-D platform, a commercialization project by Navigator Technology Ventures, LLC, Draper's venture capital subsidiary. In a globe-shaped projection, the device provides full-color, 360-degree views of images useful for medical and military applications. The images can be manipulated with a joystick to allow users to navigate around them.

A number of projects are by students, particularly through the Draper Fellow Program. Each year, graduate students participate in sponsored research at Draper Lab. This program gives the students an opportunity to gain practical experience in their technical fields that coincide with Draper research.

Thirty-three Fellows are new to Draper this year, joining 30 Fellows who are continuing their thesis research at Draper toward master's or doctoral degrees. This year's group of 63 Fellows is the largest in the last nine years. In addition to 55 MIT Fellows, there are six from Rice University, one from Tufts and one from Boston University.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 9, 2002.

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