Jessica Lee

I am a PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley, where I work on bio-inspired design to improve robot performance. I received my Master of Science in ME and am a part of Biomimetic Millisystems Lab where I work with Ronald S. Fearing. I also work closely with Robert J. Full and the Poly-PEDAL Lab and am co-advised by Alice Agogino. I've also been a graduate researcher at the Biorobotics Lab at Seoul National University and Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL.

Before graduate school, I received a Bachelors in ME at University of California, Santa Barbara, where I worked on gecko adhesives under Kimberly Turner in the Mechanics of Microscale Systems (MEMS) Lab. I have also interned at Inogen, InTouch Health, and United Airlines.

CV  /  Google Scholar  /  Happy Holidays!

Recent News
  • In May 2018, I will be presenting at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) on my work on a self-engaging spined gripper with dynamic penetration and release for steep jumps in Brisbane, Australia.
  • In October 2017, I started a collaboration with Dr. Kenneth Cheung in the Coded Structures Lab at NASA Ames Research Center to make robots for assembling structures in space
  • In September 2017, I won Silver with my team "Cali4nia Raptors" at the USPA National Competition in 4 way formation skydiving
  • In August 2017, I attended a one week intensive code camp by CodeSmith and put together a website that helps you find things to do anywhere you go

My research takes inspiration from biology to improve robotic design but also uses robots as physical models to test biology hypotheses. In particular, I'm interested in designs that will make robots more effective in navigating and interacting with their environments to take more of them out of the lab and into the real world.


Compound Foot for Increased Millirobot Jumping Ability
Jessica Lee, Ronald S. Fearing, Kyu-Jin Cho
CLAWAR September 2016

A critical aspect of navigating through your environment successfully is traction through attaching to the environment. Insects do this through friction pads and spines on their tibia. Bio-inspired compound feet with spines and foot pads improved a millirobot's jumping performance by 65%, bringing it close to a no-slip model.


Anisotropic Collapsible Leg Spines for Increased Millirobot Traction
Jessica Lee, Ronald S. Fearing
IEEE ICRA May 2015 / video

Collapsible leg spines found on insects and spiders provide a passive mechanism for increased traction while running over complex terrain. Spiny feet for VelociRoACH increased the climbable incline, reduced dimensionless Cost of Pulling by an order of magnitude while robot speed and pulling load increased by 50%.


Crickets Jumping from Diverse Substrates Inspire Leg Design in a Millirobot
Jessica Lee, Ronald S. Fearing , Kyu-Jin Cho , Robert J. Full
SICB 2017

Insect legs possess various structures that can enhance interaction with the substrate. To find out how effective friction pads and tibia spines are we jumped eight gryllus firmus on a high traction surface, low friction surface, flowable media, and a penetrable surface. Spines slightly increased performance on the high traction surface and increased performance on the penetrable oneby 82%.


Biologically Inspired Collapsible Spines Increase Performance in Legged Robot
Jessica Lee, Duncan Haldane , Ronald S. Fearing , Robert J. Full
SICB 2015

Studies on insects and spiders have shown that in cluttered environments or those having a low probability of foot contact, collapsible leg spines can increase performance. Anisotropic properties of spines permit engagement of complex terrain during thrust, but are easily removed during swing because they collapse toward the leg. We used this architectural advantage as biological inspiration for increasing the performance of a legged robot.

Other Projects

Robot End Effector for Locomotion and Manipulation of 3D Lattice
Jessica Lee, Daniel Cellucci, Kenneth Cheung
Coded Structures Lab at NASA Ames Research Center

Modular structures built from lattice building blocks have high stiffness to weight ratios, which make them desirable for space applications. These building blocks can be assembled and disassembled to be reconfigured into any structure needed. I designed and created a new end effector for robots to traverse and manipulate a new modular 3D lattice design. This lattice should also be easier to for robots to assemble than past designs. This end effector includes passive spines for engagement and a shape to automatically align itself with the lattice without more control.

Lizard Righting Behavior Using their Tails
Jessica Lee, Carlos Casarez, Thomas Libby
University of California, Berkeley

Lizards are able to right themselves using their tails in under 0.2s. We filmed geckos at 1200fps to characterize their various methods in hopes of implementing them in a self-righting robot. We then filmed iguanas to see how tail righting methods scale.


Soft Robot Design to Traverse 3D Space
Jessica Lee, Juan Manuel Florez, Jamie Paik
Reconfigurable Robotics Lab at EPFL

I designed and manufactured Soft Pneumatic Actuators (SPAs) for an earthworm-inspired soft, crawling robot to traverse a 3-D space. I also implemented new manufacturing strategies, increasing number of usable SPAs by 40%

Skills, Tools, and Expertise

Engineering: UV Laser, IR Laser, 3D Printing, machine shop, surface mounting, fiberglass making

Software: Matlab, Java, C, SolidWorks, AutoCad, Labview, Photoshop, R statistics, LaTeX, HTML, CSS

Coursework: Design of Electromechanical Devices, Biomimetic Engineering, Mechanical Behavior of Engineering Materials, Organism Mechanics, Design Thinking, Sustainable Manufacturing

Specialization: Bio-inspired design, design and manufacturing robots of Smart Composite Microstructure (SCM) and Soft Pneumatic Actuators (SPA), rapid prototyping, experimental biology

Fellowships and Honors

NSF GRFP: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program
NSF IGERT: Integrative Graduate Education and Research Trainee
Division Winner of IET PATW: Institution of Engineering and Technology Present Around the World (PATW) Competition 2014/2015
College of Engineering Deans Honors Program at UCSB: in top 5% of the class
Member of National Society of Collegiate Scholars

Outreach and Leadership

Networking Chair for Graduate Women in Engineering (GWE)
Networking Chair for Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WiCSE)
President of Science and Engineering Community Outreach (SECO)
Robotics Lead for Electrical Engineering Outreach
Tutoring Chair for Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honor Society)

Other Interests

Skydiving, Scuba diving, Basketball, Skiing, Dance, Kayaking, Traveling, Mandarin, Piano, Guitar

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