An Award-Winning Robotic Wheelchair and a Voltaic Cell Powered by Stomach Acid

IEEE members made headlines this month

22 March 2017

IEEE Fellow Rory A. Cooper and his research group at the University of Pittsburgh received the 2016 Blackwood Design Award for MEBot, a robotic wheelchair. The award was presented by Blackwood, an in-home care provider for people with disabilities, in Edinburgh.

The wheelchair can tackle steps, pavement edges, and rough terrain while keeping the occupant level and secure.

Cooper, director of the university’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, is a professor of bioengineering, physical and medical rehabilitation, and orthopedic surgery.

He is a member of the IEEE Control Systems and IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology societies.


IEEE Fellow Gary S. May was named chancellor of the University of California, Davis. May, the university’s first African-American chancellor, is expected to start on 1 August.

Currently he is dean of the Georgia Tech College of Engineering. He is a member of the IEEE Computer, IEEE Computational Intelligence, and IEEE Electron Devices societies.


IEEE Member Phillip Nadeau and colleagues from MIT as well as researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, have designed and built a small voltaic cell that generates power from acidic fluids found in the stomach and small intestine. The power generated by the cell can run a small, ingestible sensor or a drug-delivery device. It is cheaper and safer than traditional battery-powered devices used to monitor diseases and can remain in the gastrointestinal tract for longer periods of time.

Nadeau is lead author of the research paper “Prolonged Energy Harvesting for Ingestible Devices,” published in the February issue of the journal Nature: Biomedical Engineering. He is a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, where he works on biomedical applications of ultra-low-energy electronics.

He is a member of the IEEE Solid-State Circuits Society as well as IEEE Young Professionals.


IEEE Life Fellow Uri Shaked received the Israel Prize for Engineering Research. Israel Prizes recognize excellence in a person’s chosen field and are considered to be the country’s highest honor.

Shaked received the award for pioneering research in robust linear control and estimation, time-delay systems, switching systems, and control and estimation of linear stochastic systems.

He is a professor of electrical engineering systems at Tel Aviv University.


IEEE Member Joseph Smalley and other researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a material that could reduce signal losses in photonic devices—an advance that could improve the efficiency of fiber-optic communication systems, lasers, and photovoltaics.

Plasmonic metamaterials are engineered at the nanoscale to control light, but they typically contain metals that absorb energy from light and convert it into heat. Part of the optical signal gets wasted, lowering the efficiency. In a recent study published in Nature: Communications, however, the researchers demonstrated a way to make up for the losses by incorporating a light-emitting semiconductor into the metamaterial.

Smalley is a postdoctoral researcher in the electrical engineering department at UCSD.

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