RESEARCH

 

Our research is generally categorized into the three areas shown below - Soft Robotics, Novel Actuators, and Mobile Robots - however most of our work extends across multiple categories and quite often beyond, leveraging knowledge and techniques from many disparate domains including biology, biomechanics, materials science, manufacturing, and industrial design.

MAIN RESEARCH FOCUS AREAS
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SOFT ROBOTICS

Compliant systems or components afford many advantages across current and future potential applications for robotics, including locomotion, manipulation, human-robot interaction, and wearable devices. Soft robots, utilizing highly elastic or flexible materials in their construction such as silicone rubber, polyurethane foam, fabric, or even shape-memory alloy metal, are naturally adaptable, robust, scalable, and often considered intrinsically safe, in comparison to 'traditional' robots more commonly composed of rigid materials including metals or plastics. Our research interest in this area is to explore the vast design space beyond traditional robot system compositions by leveraging soft and smart materials to achieve robots with unique form factors, functional behaviors, and innate characteristics which render new and previously inaccessible applications and opportunities in robotics.

BIOINSPIRED ACTUATORS

Actuators are the fundamental component of any mechanical robotic system responsible for performing physical work, and are thereby one of the most important elements of a robot's design. As the performance and behavioral characteristics of the actuators inherently dictate those of any robot overall, the design of a robotic system is often centered around a choice of actuators from readily available options or includes the careful design of a customized actuator to meet the specifications of desired performance objectives. In the development of novel bioinspired or soft robots, the selection and integration of actuators is likewise critical, however existing actuator technologies are not sufficient for every desired application. Our research interest in this area is to investigate new forms of actuation that are matched to the compliance, power, or scale of novel robotic systems designs which deliver unique and boundary-breaking capabilities.

MOBILE ROBOTS

Outside of highly structured settings like a factory or warehouse, moving through the complex and diverse environments of the so-called 'real-world' is inherently challenging for robots. Nevertheless, many future projected applications for robotics and automation exist in these unstructured, natural or man-made environments. Reliable mobility through a variety of different types of terrain or conditions, including over land, in water, or even through the air, is the first crucial step to establishing operational capability in such settings, though each presents their own unique design requisites, challenges, and solutions. Our research interest in this area therefore aims to explore powerful new possibilities for robot morphology and locomotion capabilities, following a bioinspired paradigm for robotic system design and exploiting new developments in soft robotics and novel actuator technology.

NERD RESEARCH LAB FACILITIES

WHERE WE WORK

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Nicol Hall

Main lab HQ

MME Department

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Mitchell Hall

Collaborative space

Ingenuity Labs

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McLaughin Hall

Collaborative space

MME Department

RESEARCH LAB TOOLS

Coming soon - list of available lab equipment
Interested in joining our research group? Let's Talk.​
RELEVANT QUOTES

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."

Walt Disney

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

Steve Jobs