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UCSD robots fighting robots

Robot Combat League, a new television series on the Syfy network, brings reality robot combat on screen. Saura Naderim, UC San Diego engineering physics alumnus, was cast as one of the dozen robot-techs who control the fighting movement of the humanoid robots.

The weekly show features 12 teams of individuals teamed up with an 8-foot, 1000-pound humanoid robots whose movements are controlled by the human competitors through the use of exosuits. Human competitors wear the exosuits to supply energy and conduct movement.

The competition resembles the robot tournament in Japan that took place in Korakuen stadium hall in Tokyo. However, this tournament puts the combat on screen while experimenting with controlling super large-scale robots. The series began airing on Feb. 26 at 10 p.m.

The 12 teams of individuals are responsible for controlling the robots’ mechanical assaults. Each fight goes three rounds with the winning team advancing. The fights are “until the death,” meaning that the robots have to be completely destroyed to score the point. Each fight goes three rounds, and the winning team advances. The last group that survives will win a $100,000 prize.

Robot Combat League combines the skills of cross-disciplinary fields in engineering, art and technology. It seeks to not only entertain, but also inspire passion in engineering. One of Naderim’s career objectives is to introduce practical and fun engineering skills and inspire others.

Naderim accounts her participation in the competition television show as a worthy experience to “communicate engineering to non-engineers.”

UCLA seeks customized acne treatment

Acne, the most common skin disorder in the United States, affects 85 percent of the Americans year-round. Despite its prevalence among the populace, acne treatment is not a well-known subject; doctors and scientists have made little progress in the past combating the acne problem.

But acne’s days may be outnumbered. A UCLA-led research on the disorder recently discovered a common genetic strain that might spark hopes for future personalized acne treatment and other medical advances.

Researchers found that the different strains of acne bacteria explain why some people are more pimple-prone than others: a bad strain causes pimples and a good one seems to protect the skin from blemishes.

The study was conducted by extracting acne bacteria using pore-cleansing stripes from a sample of 100 volunteers, half of whom were pimple-ridden and the other half had clear skin. After isolating the microbial DNA from the strips, the researchers then used a genetic marker to sequence the bacterial strains and recorded whether the person suffered from acne.

Out of the 66 strains of the bacteria, scientists singled out two strains in particular that were found way more often on the volunteers that suffered from acne than on the volunteers who did not. The “friendly” strain is believed to have contained a defense mechanism that attacks the infection before acne formation begin whereas the “bad” strains irritate the body’s immune system and cause skin inflammation that results in pimple growth.

Increasing the body’s friendly strain of acne bacteria through the use of a simple cream may help calm spotty complexions. Lead Researcher Huiying Li said the next step will be to investigate whether a probiotic cream can block bad bacteria from invading the skin and prevent pimples before they start.

Making weapons from the shield of mantis shrimps

A group of researchers led by UC Riverside engineering Assistant Professor David Kisailus are studying mantis shrimps, with the purpose of creating lightweight, strong and durable materials for construction.

Mantis shrimps, or stomatopods, are tropical marine inhabitants best known for their dactyl club that they use to attack their prey. The clubs act as a spear that stuns and dismembers, similar to a combination of spear, dagger and pistol.

The research team seeks to put forth applications in structural materials that produce lighter-weight and impact-resistant weapons than existing products. The objective of their research is to transform future military armor, vehicle and aircraft frames into the engineering construction through incorporating the unique structure of a marine crustacean.

Mantis shrimp’s powerful clubs rendered them the nickname “thumb-splitter;” one blow may accelerate underwater as fast as a 22-caliber bullet. And although it rarely happens, they are capable of breaking through aquarium glass. The club can also withstand high-velocity strikes that have the equivalent impact of 50,000 bullet blows.

“Such a powerful weapon is hard to achieve in engineering, yet biology can do it,” wrote Kisailus on his research website. “Simple building blocks from the environment can create a wide range of complex structures, and they do it under natural conditions.”

The research team comprises of experts in cross-disciplinary fields including zoology, mechanics, modeling and synchrotron x-ray characterization, and engineering. Kisailus said the multidisciplinary lens make it “a very thorough investigation.”