Advisor Feature: Koushil Sreenath, Mechanical Engineering
Edited by Ashley Villanueva
Koushil Sreenath, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley, received an honorable mention for the 2019 MEng Capstone Faculty Mentorship Award at the 2019 Berkeley MEng Capstone Showcase. The award recognizes the Capstone advisor who fosters intellectual independence, provides project support, and furthers professional development.
We asked Prof. Sreenath questions about his experience as a faculty Capstone advisor and here’s what we learned.
What is your advising philosophy?
I try to spend a lot of time working with my students. I encourage students to work with me to solve problems. I have an open-door policy — Students can drop in anytime at my office with questions and don’t have to wait until their weekly meeting.
What was the most memorable moment with your team?
Getting the Cassie robot riding on the Hovershoes on outdoor rough terrain late one evening.
How did the Capstone team advance this technology? What was their major accomplishment? How can next year’s team continue the work?
This Capstone team built up the fundamentals for solving this problem — they built the dynamical models, the preliminary controller, and proof-of-concept experiments. I am very proud of what they accomplished in the past six months. They were effectively the most productive team in my group. The next year’s team will build on using more advanced control and perception to provide more robustness and autonomy to the system to enable Cassie to ride autonomously from one corner of the campus to another with no manual intervention.
What’s unique about advising on a Capstone project, compared to advising on a more traditional course project or a research project?
Capstone students have lots of other time commitments. If the students realize that this Capstone project is adding a lot of value, is a lot of fun, and is challenging, then they are committed to put in more time. Apart from this, I treated Capstone students as research students, and this team delivered.
What are some of the unique attributes of MEng students that you came across in your teaching/advising?
MEng students are hungry — they want to learn as much as possible in the short one year that they have. They want to get as much done as possible. It’s great to have MEng students around.
What advice would you give to faculty who’ll be advising on a Capstone project for the first time next year?
I would suggest coming up with projects that captivate students and get them fully committed. Convey the end-goal of the project and lay down a path of how to get there and what it involves in the very first meeting with the students. This way, the student can always visualize the final result and work hard towards it.
About Prof. Sreenath’s Capstone team:
Bipedal Robotic Locomotion
Cassie Moves Autonomously
Team: Jonathan Rogers [ME], Bike Zhang [ME], and Shuxiao Chen [IEOR]
Project Description: In the field of robotics, legged robot locomotion is one of the hardest problems. We developed a framework for autonomous locomotion. This was accomplished through controllers, path planning, and computer vision.