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UC Berkeley Seal
M.S. student, Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 2013 – Expected 2017
GPA 3.929
UC Berkeley Seal
B.S. student, Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, 2009 – 2013
GPA 3.817

work experience

JPL Robotics Techologist under Paul Backes, Pasadena, CA Feb 2017 - Present

JPL Robotics Software Intern under Paul Backes and Jeff Hall, Pasadena, CA May 2013 – Aug 2015

  • Incorporated Bullet collision detection software for non-convex geometries in a kinematic workspace analysis software as a data-driven approach to inform the Sample Retrieval and Launch (SRL) rover design
  • Developed C/C++ kinematic workspace analysis software to determine workspace accessibility for a 5 / 6 DOF robotic arm. Results from this work led the Mars Program Office to adopt a new mission approach towards Mars Sample Return
  • Refactored mobility software for Pluto Fetch Rover to add robot functionalities such as rotating the rover in place and driving the rover with a joystick
  • Primary Robotic 6 DOF Arm software engineer for MSTT on both SRL and Fetch Rover platform and responsible for demonstrating robustness in computer-vision assisted sample tube pick up in a broad spectrum of regolith

Mechatronics Graduate Researcher with Professor Tomizuka, UC Berkeley May 2011 –Present

  • Applied in simulation trajectory optimization, an optimal control technique, for motion planning for two satellites. Control goal is to have robust and precise tracking between the two satellites for free space optical communication
  • Codeveloped state estimation technique, marginalized particle filter, for attitude estimation that offers faster convergence rates for less computation power
  • Developed software in Arduino and LabVIEW to manage a wireless sensor network for human motion tracking
  • Created and designed via Eagle various controller PCBs for Tailbot, a robot with inertial assisted control by an active tail inspired by lizards, which was a featured robot on the front page of Nature

Pioneers in Engineering (PiE) Advisor, UC Berkeley May 2011 – Present

  • CEO for the nonprofit Pioneers in Engineering 501©3 Foundation, which promotes STEM education through an exciting, mentorship based process.
  • Integral leader in an annual scholarship for high school students. I help raise funds, connect alumni to students, plan logistics for interviews, as well as set direction for the scholarship.
  • Spearheaded efforts to recruit Berkeley undergraduates to become robotics mentors for underprivileged high school students in our annual 300+ robotics competition
  • Managed a 10-person committee in robotics curriculum development for 90+ UC Berkeley undergraduates
  • Organized the inaugural and well-received Robots vs Dinosaur Science Festival, a 100+ event, complete with 8 novel science activities in cooperation with Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, CA


  • CS 287 – Intro to Advanced Robotics, Professor Abbeel
  • EE 215A – Introduction to Robotics, Professor Bajcsy
  • CS 188/289A – Introduction to AI/Machine Learning, Professor Russell and Efros
  • EE 192 – Mechatronics Design Lab, Professor Fearing
  • EE C249A – Intro to Embedded Systems, Professor Seshia
  • ME 232/233 – Advanced Control Systems, Professor Tomizuka
  • ME 237 - Control of Nonlinear Dynamical Systems, Professor Hedrick


Software skills: MATLAB/Octave, LabVIEW, Python, C, bash, Docker, Git/Github, Linux, HTML/CSS

ME/EE skills: EAGLE, PCB layout/manufacturing, forward/inverse kinematics, modern/classical controls, laser cutting, Solidworks

Other skills: Trombone, marimba, fluid Cantonese

projects (see portfolio)

Vision-assisted Block Manipulation with Baxter for EE125, UC Berkeley

  • Combined ROS ARTag vision tracking with ROS MoveIt on a Baxter platform to stack toy blocks. We were able to successfully vertically stack 10 blocks in succession

Line Following NATCAR for EE192, UC Berkeley

  • Programmed a PID controller in C for a line-following car, with camera feedback, that placed 6th at NATCAR

Networked Swarm Robotics for ME102B, UC Berkeley

  • Designed/manufactured electrical hardware (motor controller, XBee comms) for a swarm robot network. We placed 2nd for best project within the class.

Ball on a Plate for ME135, UC Berkeley

  • Used LabVIEW to implement LQR and PID control to successfully stabilize a ball on a 2 axis plate


  • Joonbum Bae; Haninger, K.; Wai, D.; Garcia, X.; Tomizuka, M., ”A network-based monitoring system for rehabilitation,” Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics (AIM), 2012 IEEE/ASME Interna- tional Conference on , vol., no., pp.232,237, 11-14 July 2012 IEEE Link

  • Paul Backes; Wai, D et al. ”Sampling System Concepts for a Touch-and-Go Architecture Comet Surface Sample Return Mission.” American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), AIAA SPACE 2014 Conference and Exposition June 2014 AIAA Link

  • Yizhou Wang; Wai, D.; Tomizuka, M., ”Steady-state Marginalized Particle Filter for Attitude Estimation” Dynamic Systems and Control Conference (DSCC) July 2014 ASME Link

  • Kyle Edelberg; Wai, D; Reid, J; Kulczycki, E; Backes, P. “Workspace and Reachability Analysis of a Robotic Arm for Sample Cache Retrieval from a Mars Rover” American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), AIAA SPACE 2015 Conference and Exposition Sept 2015 AIAA Link
  • Ryan McCormick; Wai, D et al. “Robotic Gripper Design and Testing for Potential Mars Sample Return” International Planetary Probe Workshop (IPPW)


Pioneers in Engineering is a student orgainzation on UC Berkeley campus dedicated to the promotion of STEM in the Bay Area through robotics outreach. I was a previous leadership member and am currently the CEO of the PiE Foundation, providing mentorship to current students and operating a scholarship fund for high school students.
Maker Faire
Robot Petting Zoo at Maker Faire 2012
PiE Scrimmage
PiE Scrimmage 2012.
Photo taken by Hamilton Nguyen
Robots vs Robots
Hot robot on robot action
PiE Alumni Scholarship
Presenting the PiE Alumni Scholarship to our winner, Pedro Becerra
Hour of Code
Volunteering in Hour of Code 2014
Realm Charter HS
Students from Realm Charter High School at PiE Final Competition 2014


Cal Band is the Pride of California and I am proud to have been a first trombone player during my undergrad experience at Cal. Go Bears!
Dennis in Cone
I am wearing a cone in this picture.
Photo taken by SF Chronicle
Dennis in Cable Car
Big Game Week 2013 - Riding in a Cable Car playing for SF
Dennis in SF Giants Parade
SF Giants Parade in celebration of World Series win in 2014