Flexibility and compliance can be beneficial for mobile robots that have to navigate unstrucured environments. Limbs and bodies that can bend in response to unexpected perturbations enable effective movement capabilities. Flexible appendages also offer the opportunity for body-reconfiguration to suit the task at hand. We are developing new methods to fabricate flexible, compliant, and soft robots with a focus on locomotion and reconfiguration capabilities.
Biologists and roboticists have long been interested in how collective groups of agents can make decisions and move together. In this work we are interested in understanding how robotic collectives can coordinate their movement through minimal, and often no, communication. Recent work has focused on how mechanical interactions in high-density collectives can be used to transfer information through the group. The primary example has been how undulatory robots can collectively synchronize their gaits for coordinated locomotion.
Running dynamics for small scale insects and robots are poorly understood. We explore legged movement at the small-scale by performing biomechanics experiments on high-speed running ants. We use micro-robotic models to test hypothesis of dynamic running in small scale systems.
Power efficiency of milli-scale robots can be improved through mechanical designs incorporating elastic structures for energy storage and recovery. Locomotion movements are often periodic (flapping wings, running gaits) and so actuation and power transmission through resonant systems could be beneficial. However, resonance and agility require conflicting modes of actuation: resonance favors actuation at a single frequency and agility favors actuation across a wide range of frequencies. W e seek to resolve this conflict in locomotion efficiency and agility through novel mechanical design of compliant microrobots.
Granular materials such as sand comprise a large portion of the Earth's surface. Yet robot movement within a granular substrate is still an extremely challenging task. In this project we combine physics based study of granular flow mechanics, with robot design and locomotion studies, towards development of small mobile robots capable of movement through sand.