This course teaches how to create original robotic devices made of light, compliant – informal – materials.
New fabrication techniques are transforming the field of robotics. Rather than rigid parts connected by mechanical connectors, robots can now be made of folded paper, carbon laminates or soft gels. They can be formed fully integrated from a 3D printer rather than assembled from individual components. Informal Robotics draws on cutting-edge research from leading labs, in particular, Harvard’s Micro Robotics Laboratory which has created unique designs for ambulatory and flying robots, end-effectors, medical instruments and other applications.
We will explore informal robotics from multiple perspectives, culminating with the design of original devices displaying animated intelligence in real-time. Going beyond traditional engineering approaches, we will also explore new opportunities for design at the product, architectural, and urban scales.
Hands-on: Working with the GSD’s Fab Lab we are creating a kit of parts that will be available to all enrolled students. With the kit, you can create a wide range of folding mechanisms controlled by on-board miniature electronics.
Software / Simulation: Software workshops will be offered on Fusion 360 and Grasshopper to simulate robotic performance within a virtual environment.
- Kinematics: design techniques for pop-ups, origami, and soft mechanisms.
- Fabrication: methods: for composite materials, laminated assembly, self-folding, and integrated flexures - the kit of parts will allow for hands-on exploration.
- Controls: how to actuate movement and program desired behavior. Topics include servos, linear actuators, and use of Arduino actuator control.
- Applications: takes us beyond purely technological concerns, contextualizing Informal Robotics within larger trends where materials, manufacturing and computation are starting to merge.
Format, prerequisites, evaluation:
A portion of the lecture material will be pre-recorded, allowing students to view this on their own schedule. The class session will emphasize discussion and review of assignments & projects.
There will be assignments to produce test mechanisms and CAD models, followed by final group projects. Presentations and discussions of ongoing student work are integral to the course. There are no prerequisites and evaluation will be based on completion of assignments and the final project.
Projects may be virtual, physical or both. Resources for fabricating customized final projects are not fully known at this point, but I am committed to supporting physical-making to the degree possible.