Behind the Scenes: Meet Dr. Nisbett

Professor Nisbett is working on his PhD and teaching two classes at GTL this semester. He’s got big dreams – and some great advice for all students!

Behind every great man is a great woman. This saying grew in popularity due to its honest truth. Not coincidentally, behind most great things there is something just as great if not better. Colleges and universities are no exception. Often overlooked at some great universities are the great faculty that build the programs and curriculum. Well, not at Georgia Tech or GTL. Faculty are a huge part of our community on and off campus, bringing next level research and teaching skills to aspiring engineers. Georgia Tech frequently rotates faculty from the Atlanta campus, and this is how we were lucky enough to receive the talents of Adam Nisbett.

Dr. Nisbett is currently not a doctor – not yet anyway. He is working on his final year of his PhD and his dissertation with a discipline in Tensegrity Robotics this semester. Born and raised in Missouri, Professor Nisbett was home-schooled up until high school. The second oldest of 9 siblings, Professor Nisbett was strongly influenced by his family and Christian faith as a child. His first involvement in robotics was also influenced by his family. His father, a Mechanical Engineering professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology was asked to judge in the 1st Lego League Robotics competition. This piqued his curiosity, and Professor Nisbett became involved with the local team and the rest is history.

He went onto study mechanical engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, earning his Bachelor’s degree. There he also earned his Master’s Degree in electrical engineering computational intelligence. Hearing about Georgia Tech’s unique robotics program, Professor Nisbett came to Atlanta and furthered his childhood passion for robotics. Georgia Tech’s program allows integration of robotics applications from multiple areas of engineering, such as mechanical engineering (ME), electrical engineering (EE), aerospace engineering (AE), etc. It is here that Professor Nisbett’s dissertation gains traction.
As mentioned before he is working on Tensegrity, or to the common man,

A tensegrity structure.

Tension and Integrity applications. Pictured to the left is a tensegrity structure called a rollover, for its ability to be compressed and roll. Each beam is held together by strings that are tensioned perfectly to maintain the structural integrity. However, with a simple hand motion the whole structure can be almost flat and compressed. Professor Nisbett is currently working on control schemes for robotic compression of the strings and structure. The current scope of such technology is being considered for future NASA missions. The idea is to use the structure for the model of a rover or planetary lander. (He was quick to point out that the basics of this structure are all things we will be covering in our Statics class this semester.)

He is a very bright individual who is clearly focused on the future, not just his own but of mankind’s. Wrapping up the interview I asked, “Do you have any advice for GTL students or students in general?” Immediately a grin appeared on his face as he said, “Learn to enjoy learning!” In that, see what you’re learning as something interesting and applicable to you own life. He went on to say, “A lot of people treat schooling as something you have to get through. Don’t look for the drudgery in it, look for the targets, and find ways to motivate yourself with something interesting rather than thinking it’s something that you have to do.” From an approach such as this it is easy to see success in your life.

While only his first time at GTL, Professor Nisbett is already planning to supersede his great accomplishments. His design for a previous robotics work is featured on the cover of the GT ME 3180 Machine Design textbook which also happens to be co-authored by his father. However, Professor Nisbett is also aspiring to have a teaching career. This semester he is teaching COE 2001-Statics and COE 3001-Deformable Bodies. This is the first step in hopefully a long and successful teaching.