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Research Projects

Our IGERT students are working on projects ranging from liquid electronics to crowd-sourced robot control strategies.

Using Social Media to Crowdsource Control Strategies for Soft Robots

Master's Thesis

Whitney Crooks, PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering


Chris Rogers, Mechanical Engineering
Barry Trimmer, Biology

A web-based platform for a soft-bodied robot was developed. Users could sign in with their social media accounts in order to sign up for 30 minute time slots to control the robot. While users were controlling the robot and competing for fastest time from start to finish, Whitney collected information on what controls were being input, and also tracked the robot as it traversed the arena. Although a critical number of users was not reached, preventing the fastest controls from being determined, it was determined that users averaged a 1.351 s actuation time for SMA1, a phase gap of 0.554 s, and an actuation time of 1.174 s for SMA2. The magnitude of the Softworm's velocity was an order of magnitude smaller than expected, and the reason for that was not determined. However, the SoftRobotics website did demonstrate that crowdsourcing can provide an avenue for solving control problems for soft robots.

Softworm connected to an Arduino R3 with a MotoProto Shield and running off a 9V battery.
Softworm in arena with LEGO robot, which follows the Softworm and resets it to the start position if necessary. The Arduino R3 and MotoProtoShield are mounted to the top of the LEGO robot.
Softworm in arena with a LEGO robot that follows the Softworm through the maze in order to carry the Arduino and MotoProto Shield communicating with the Softworm and to reset the Softworm if necessary. The computer to the right tracks the Softworm and generates HTML, which is sent out to the website.