My favorite coffee house at Harvard
Sawyer Buckminster Fuller
Assistant Professor, University of Washington, Seattle
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Room MEB 321

Education (curriculum vitae)

Professional biography
Sawyer Fuller creates biologically-inspired sensors, control systems, and mechanical designs targeted at insect-sized air and ground vehicles, and investigates the flight systems of aerial insects. He completed his Ph.D. in Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology and B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to his work in insect flight control, he also developed a frog-hopping robot at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and invented an ink-jet printer capable of fabricating millimeter-scale 3D metal machines at the MIT Media Lab.

(You can add the following if it needs to sound impressive: His work at the intersection of robotics and biology has been featured in a cover article in The MIT Technology Review and in news outlets such as Wired and The Scientist, and has appeared in journals such as Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. )

Personal notes
I grew up mostly in Central California, graduating from Morro Bay High School. I have lived in Guatemala, Florida, Massachusetts, and Italy. My dad, boat builder Kirk Fuller, builds sailing catamarans and other vehicles that disdain conventional wisdom. My mom, Patrice Engle, was a professor of psychology and Senior Officer for Child Development at UNICEF where she worked on the science and policy of global child development. She passed away from non-smoking lung cancer in 2012. There is a dissertation grant available in her honor for Ph.D. students interested in early child development in low- or middle-income countries.

Other things about me are that I really like riding bicycles, and I don't really like driving in cars, there are way too many of them. My favorite sports to play are soccer and ultimate frisbee, and sometimes I make art. When I get a chance I love being in the water, whether it's charging deep into the barrel (that is, surfing), sailing, windsurfing, or kayaking.

Relation to R. Buckminster Fuller
Richard Buckminster Fuller was an architect, mathematician, entrepreneur, and author (and Harvard dropout). Both the 60-carbon "Buckminsterfullerene" molecule and I were named after him, but neither of us has any known relation to him. Buckminsterfullerene was discovered after his death and was named because of its resemblance to his geodesic dome. But Fuller and I were alive at the same time, so you can judge for yourself if there's any resemblance in this picture : ).

My favorite part about Buckminster Fuller was how much emphasis he put on thinking orthogonally to convention. He questioned why buildings had to be square, for example. His suggestion was to instead rely on the intrinsic strength of triangles and efficiently enclose space with spheres like the geodesic dome. But his main concern was poverty. He believed that technology was advanced enough that the cost of being poor should not be a lack of basic needs like food, water, or medicine. That so many still did not have these essentials, including his own daughter who died at a young age, indicated that radical thinking was required. He believed the solution lay in a combination of entrepreneurship, commerce, and focus on environmental sustainability, and promoted his ideas vigorously. This led to a saying by idealistic youth in the 60's and 70's, perhaps echoed by my parents, to "never trust anyone over 30 -- except Bucky." I don't have enough patience to read his esoteric style of writing, so instead I watch his videos on Youtube.