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Chillin' with Chewie

Are you hyped up for The Force Awakens? So is U-M Engineering – to celebrate, faculty have been bringing in some familiar faces to talk Star Wars tech and get down with a holiday rap from Dean Munson.


The Return of the Holiday Rap: A Jedi's Chant


On a campus far, far away… So far you have to take a bus from Central Campus to get there. 

Former chair of EECS and Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering Dave Munson - actually, scratch that. The wise old leader, Dean Obi Wan Munson, reflects on his time on campus and all that's been accomplished. He looks to the future, when a new Jedi will take the reins and continue to lead Michigan Engineering to greatness.


These aren't the droids you're looking for: Jessy Grizzle and Robots


MARLO may not be C-3PO, but Prof. Jessy Grizzle's biped is looking pretty cool by Earth standards. With prosthetic feet and hips that can swing sideways for stability, his two-legged robot can walk outside unassisted and doesn't even need eyes!

The bipeds of today are great, but Jessy would still take a Star Wars droid as his piece of tech from that galaxy far, far away. Imagine what we could learn from one!


Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope: John Nees and Holograms


Holograms in Star Wars can record 3-D video and be projected seemingly anywhere. We're not quite there yet, but research scientist John Nees tells us what we can expect from this awesome technique – invented at U-M! Practically speaking, that is.

Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks fixed the standing holographic problem, and showed the world what their technology could do back in 1962. A whole new world was lit up. Check out a display in the EECS atrium, showing some of the earliest holography ever achieved.

And while this area is very impressive, John Nees can't help but pick R2-D2 as his Star Wars tech of choice – what better way to kick start 3-D recording with holograms!


This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight: Karl Krushelnick and Lightsabers


Karl Krushelnick isn't too sold on a lightsaber being a laser beam – it can't pass through other lightsabers, it doesn't beam off into infinity, and it's way too high energy. We may not know how to recreate one ourselves for may more years, but ECE has a leg up in laser technology.

The university's laser research was kickstarted by Prof. Gérard Mourou, who established the Center for Ultrafast Optical Science (CUOS) in 1991. This center houses the Hercules laser, a 300 TW laser that set a world record of intensity in 2003, and other advanced optical research.  

Karl, professor of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences as well as ECE, is Director of CUOS, and researches experimental ultra-high intensity laser plasma interactions. That's quite exciting work, but he still wouldn't mind having the power source from a lightsaber as his takeaway from the Star Wars universe.


Published: 12-18-15