Soft Structures: The Backbone of Soft Robots

Gina Olson, Carnegie Mellon University


Location: 122 Gates Hall

Time: 2:40p.m.

Abstract: Soft robots use geometric and material deformation to absorb impacts, mimic natural motions, mechanically adapt to motion or unevenness and to store and reuse energy. Soft robots, by virtue of these traits, offer potential for robots that grasp robustly, adapt to unstructured environments and work safely alongside, or are even worn by, humans. However, compliance breaks many of the assumptions underpinning traditional approaches to robot design, dynamics, control, sensing and planning, and new or modified approaches are required. During this talk, I will introduce the concept of soft robots as soft structures, with capabilities and behaviors derived from the type and organization of their active and passive elements. I will present my current and prior work on the development and analysis of soft robotic structures, with a particular focus on the mechanics of soft arms. I will briefly discuss ongoing work on a modular soft architecture actuated by nitinol wire.

Bio: Dr. Gina Olson is a postdoctoral research scientist working in Prof. Carmel Majidi’s Soft Machines Lab at Carnegie Mellon University. She earned her doctorate in Robotics and Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State University’s Collaborative Robotics and Intelligent Systems Institute, where she was advised by Dr. Yiğit Mengüç and Prof. Julie A. Adams. Her current research interests are the development and study of the soft and compliant structures within soft robots, and her past research interests lie in the area of deployable space structures for small satellites. She previously worked as a Technical Lead Engineer at Meggitt Polymers and Composites, where she led the development and certification of fire seals for aircraft engines.