Category Archives: science

When airplanes make like birds

From MIT News, Jul. 21, 2010

Rick Cory named Boeing Engineering Student of the Year

Photo by Jason Dorfman

The gap between aeronautics and computer science is narrower than you’d think, and Postdoctoral Associate Rick Cory is proof. Though his background is in computer science and robotics, that didn’t stop him from receiving a high honor in the field of aviation. At the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire, England, yesterday, Cory was named the 2010 Boeing Engineering Student of the Year.

A member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab’s Robot Locomotion Group, Cory received the award for his work on developing a perching airplane alongside Associate Professor Russ Tedrake. Together, they developed a glider with the ability to land on a wire like a bird.

Before beginning work on the perching-glider project in 2005, neither Tedrake nor Cory had a background in aeronautics. “We were trying to think of a project that could push the limits of robot control, and the idea came up of trying to build a robot that could fly like a bird,” Cory recalls. “For me that was a very inspiring, fantastic idea. From that point on it was literally a matter of picking up Aerodynamics 101 books and learning as much as I could.”

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The eye of god

So have you heard? Science. I write about it. For Cambridge/Boston is not just a hotbed of art and decadence, but also of science and decadence (I may be exaggerating on the decadence bit).

This is a piece I wrote for MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, where I work by day. I interviewed Associate Professor Rob Miller and Ph.D. student Sean Chang about an ingenious programming tool they created called Sikuli. It means “the eye of god,” because it’s awesome.


For CSAIL at MIT, May 10, 2010

Sikuli Rethinks Programming

Sikuli in action

For as long as there have been computers, there has been coding. And with coding comes repetition—lots of it. That’s always been the basic fact of a programmer’s existence, even as computers have become ever more friendly from a user’s perspective. That’s where Sikuli comes in. The latest from CSAIL’s User Interface Design Group, it’s a programming tool that has the ability to see like a human being. Not only does it put the graphical user interface (or GUI) in the hands of programmers, but it may one day put programming in the hands of everyday computer users.

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