Tag Archives: Daniela Rus

Baking your own robot

New algorithms and electronic components developed by MIT researchers could one day enable printable robots that self-assemble when heated.

As MIT’s Larry Hardesty reports, 3D printed robots have long been a topic of research in the lab of Daniela Rus, the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. 

At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, her group introduced a new wrinkle on the idea: bakable robots.

More specifically, the researchers demonstrated the promise of printable robotic components that, when heated, automatically fold into prescribed three-dimensional configurations.

 One method developed by the MIT team takes a digital specification of a 3D shape — such as a computer-aided design, or CAD, file — and generates the 2D patterns that would enable a piece of plastic to reproduce it through self-folding. The other method explores building electrical components from self-folding laser-cut materials.

“We have this big dream of the hardware compiler, where you can specify, ‘I want a robot that will play with my cat,’ or ‘I want a robot that will clean the floor,’ and from this high-level specification, you actually generate a working device,” Rus explained.

“So far, we have tackled some subproblems in the space, and one of the subproblems is this end-to-end system where you have a picture and at the other end, you have an object that realizes that picture. And the same mathematical models and principles that we use in this pipeline we also use to create these folded electronics.”

Interested in learning more about baking your own robot? You can check out Larry Hardesty’s full report here.

MIT wins prize for $20 AVR robot

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) recently received top honors in multiple categories at an international competition focused on designing affordable, classroom-friendly robots.

The team from CSAIL Director Daniela Rus’ Distributed Robotics Lab earned first place in the hardware and curriculum categories for a printable, origami-inspired Segway robot dubbed SEG at the “Ultra-Affordable Robot” competition sponsored by the African Robotics Network (AFRON) and the IEEE Robotics and Automaton Society.

The design by Rus, Ankur Mehta, Joseph DelPreto, Benjamin Shaya and Lindsay Sanneman, allows an individual to build a printable, Atmel AVR-powered (tinyAVR/Arduino Pro depending on version) robot for as little as $20, in just five steps.

The small robot – made of polyester – moves around on two large wheels and is capable of avoiding obstacles with an onboard sensing and navigation system. The team also adapted graphical drag-and-drop software that’s convenient for first-time programmers, while simultaneously developing a curriculum that teaches students some basic control systems to implement with SEG.


“We’re excited to have been able to make some really encouraging upgrades to our prototype in such a way that it is more effective, more intuitive and more affordable,” said Mehta. “With this kind of progress, we envision a future where robots that can help you with important daily tasks could be printed for a few dollars from your desktop printer.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page here, along with the relevant files and instructions.