Reza Alam, Professor

Closed (1) Experimental/theoretical/numerical studies of an innovative ocean wave energy converter

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

We are looking for patient students who want to develop their experimental, theoretical, and computational analysis abilities. The goal of this research is to discover new theories that will be applied to ocean wave energy converter and off-shore structures. You will have the opportunity to design and conduct scientific experiments and analyze data.

For the experimental part, we need students to come to the lab to help collect data.
If you are more interested in computational analysis, we also have important unsolved simulations waiting for you.

If you are interested in this position, feel free to email

A secondary project would involve the URAP student working alongside the SD CAL Desal team that is building a wave powered desalination system for providing drinking water during coastal disaster recovery. SD CAL Desal was named 1 of the 20 winners in the first stage, and 1 of the 17 winners in the second stage of the U.S. Department of Energy Waves to Water Prize. ( The student would help in the design and analysis of the system for the open water test in North Carolina (submission due November 30th) as well as the development and testing of the first prototype. Project components could include mechanical design/simulation/analysis, fabrication and manufacturing, electronics and control, and economic optimization and customer outreach (Red Cross, FEMA, etc).

Please reach out to Michael Kelly at for more info on this project. He is also a graduate student in Professor Alam's lab and is leading this second project.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Shuangjiu Fu, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Required: MATLAB Preferred: C, ANSYS, LabView, CAD, Signal Processing, Fluid Mechanics, ME/CS/Physics/Math background will be helpful

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Closed (2) Design, Fabrication and control of a swarm of underwater drones

Applications for fall 2021 are now closed for this project.

Underwater Wireless Data Communication is one of the most important outstanding problems in ocean engineering, impeding nearly all major research expeditions and many industrial developments. The reason is Electromagnetic Waves, at any frequency, are heavily absorbed by water (e.g. no cell phones, wifi, or GPS underwater), and Acoustic waves (Sonar) have narrow bandwidths (low data transfer rate). Here, we propose to use a flock of small-size Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) to relay a laser beam (data carrier) from the seabed to the surface of the ocean. Each AUV unit receives the signal from a unit at a lower depth, amplify the signal, and send it to the next unit on the top until the signal reaches the surface where it can easily reach satellites (via RF) and hence anywhere in the world. A real-time seabed monitoring technology, as proposed here, gives researchers and engineers a novel and unique tool to carefully perform, watch and assess deep ocean explorations and operations and, when needed, to take actions in a timely manner

Undergraduate students will be engaged in design, fabrication, conducting experiment and optimizing the design. They will participate in weekly meetings of the group and will be engaged in other activities in the area of fluid mechanics/Circuit design/controls/ and business/marking aspects of the work in our group.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Alexandre Immas, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: At least one of the following is required: 1- Circuit design/Electronics 2- controls 3- Machine shop and fabrication experience. 4- Dynamics 5- Data Science/ Machine Learning 6- Interest in a startup environment and moving the engineering idea to the market.

Weekly Hours: 12 or more hours

Closed (3) NASA Challenge: Design and Fabrication of a Surface Autonomous Vehicle for Emergency Response (SAVER) with UC Berkeley’s Water Bears Challenge Team

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

NASA has been tasked with the goal of going to the Moon by 2024 with the Artemis Program, using their Orion spacecraft. In the event of an unplanned egress (launch abort, contingency landing, etc.), the Orion crew would exit their vehicle and utilize their life raft in an aquatic environment. Each astronaut will be equipped with an emergency distress beacon. This ensures they can be located should they be individually separated from the life raft and/or the Orion capsule. NASA is hosting the 2021 Micro-g Next Competition which challenges universities from across the country to design and fabricate the best vehicle to aid in this potential maritime emergency. Twenty-six teams applied to this challenge and the Water Bears are one of eight teams selected to continue to the next phase of the challenge. The SAVER vehicle will assist with long-range search and rescue efforts by acting as a force-multiplier, assisting with primary efforts to tend to survivors on the scene immediately. While primary rescuers tend to survivors in the main life raft, SAVER will simultaneously search for astronauts/victims who have been separated from their crew.

Students will be responsible for tasks assigned to them by team leaders pertaining to the mission objectives at that time. Tasks may include but are not limited to:

Designing detailed CAD models using Solidworks 2020
Conducting research on materials and vehicle parts
Attending Mechanical Subteam and General Team meetings

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Michael Kelley

Qualifications: Knowledge of Solidworks (or are willing to teach themselves in a timely manner) Some familiarity with simulation software, i.e. Solidworks FEA, ANSYS, etc (or are willing to teach themselves in a timely manner) Able to meet at least once a week to help physically construct and test the SAVER vehicle (with a high likelihood of meeting more than once per week) Knowledge of basic hand tools and electric power tools Be excited about working with a group of hardworking CAL BEARS and on an exciting project with NASA! Eligibility: Must be a US citizen.

Weekly Hours: 12 or more hours

Closed (4) Cable-Driven Robotic Arm using a BLDC Motor with Field Oriented Control (FOC) Technique

Closed. This professor is continuing with Spring 2021 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Fall 2021.

Two positions available: 1) Design and fabrication, 2) Modeling and Controller Design

Field Oriented Control (FOC) is an advanced commutation and current control technique that allows Brushless DC (BLDC) motors to run more efficiently, with a higher power factor, with smoother motion (less torque ripple), and with no compromise in dynamic response to speed changes. In a BLDC motor, magnetic field is generated by magnets mounted directly on the rotor and by coils in the stator. The stator windings generally come in a 3-phase configuration and are arranged to be 120 electrical degrees apart from each other. It is the sum of the force generated by these three phases that will ultimately generate useable motor rotation. The FOC works by managing stator windings to keep the flux produced by the rotor’s permanent magnets orthogonal to the stator field. This advanced control technique has broad industrial applications including robotic manipulators and electric vehicles.

In this project, we will design, prototype and test a cable driven robotic arm using a BLDC motor and a closed-loop FOC approach to accurately control the tension (force) in the cable as a function of its position. The final step is to create a virtual mass-spring-damper dynamic response (for a given set of parameters) and compare the experimental results with theoretical models. Most of the electromechanical components in this project will be purchased online from suppliers such as Digikey and Mcmaster. The remaining mechanical elements will be fabricated by either a 3D printer or a laser cutting machine (or with a water-jet cutting machine for metallic components).

- Selecting the electromechanical items such as motors, encoders, etc.
- CAD design of the mechanical components
- Fabricating 3D elements with a 3D printer
- Fabricating 2D acrylic components with a laser cutting machine
- Fabricating 2D aluminum components with a water jet cutting machine
- Assembling and debugging the experimental testbed
- Designing and implementing closed-loop control algorithms to regulate
cable tension as a function of its position
- Conducting experiments and recording data for further processing and
analysis, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Required skills/Background: 1. Machine shop training 2. General mechatronics background (familiarity with electric motors, magnetic and optical encoders, etc.) 3. CAD design (such as Autodesk/Inventor, Solid works, etc.) Nice to have: 1. Familiarity with circuit design 2. Familiarity with Arduino and its programming

Weekly Hours: 12 or more hours

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