Access to High-Speed Imaging Systems Helps Industry Solve Problems

Associate Director Jim Bales, who earned his Ph.D. in Physics from MIT, has been with the Edgerton Center since 1998. In the early 2000s, he launched a MIT Professional Education Short Programs course, High-Speed Imaging for Motion Analysis: Systems and Techniques. Each summer, Dr. Bales opens the doors to MIT’s Edgerton Center to practitioners from around the globe, offering them a chance to gain hands-on experience working with state-of-the-art high-speed imaging equipment.

The Edgerton Center is the lab of the late Harold “Doc” Edgerton — an MIT professor of electrical engineering who was renowned for his work in high-speed imaging and strobe lights, and whose iconic photographs show a bullet going through an apple or the splash created from a drop of milk. After Edgerton passed away, his lab was designated a “teaching museum” that has since grown into a hands-on learning resource for people of all ages who want to explore new ideas and fast-moving objects.

“Some of the cameras in the lab cost $100,000 or more, so it’s unique for people in industry to have the opportunity to come in and experience these systems first-hand. Manufacturers also come to demo, and deliver training. In addition, we cover lenses and lighting techniques. It really is a unique program,” said Dr. Bales.

Despite a nearly two-decade-long run, the summer course continues to fill up year after year. How does the course stay in the spotlight? In part because of the boost from media coverage. In the past year alone, Dr. Bales has been interviewed by reporters at WCVB Ch. 5, Boston’s ABC affiliate station, as well as several industry trade publications, including All About Circuits, Vision Systems Design, and Photonics Magazine.

“I meet researchers from all fields, each with unique high-speed imaging needs. It’s gratifying to share these new ideas and applications to help people in industry who are trying to solve real-world problems,” said Dr. Bales. “And the media is always eager to hear about cutting-edge applications, such as how high-speed imaging is being used for military, manufacturing, automotive and even life sciences.”

Given all the press, soon Dr. Bales may feel just as comfortable in front of the camera as he is behind it.