My work ranges from ideating and designing different robotic concepts to equipping existing robotic platforms with the capability to interact with the environment forcefully. This can be done in a variety of ways, but the fundamental philosophy is to use clever mechanism design to simplify control, the dynamics, and the perception needed to accomplish these challenging tasks. Often, this is done through bio-inspiration, in which we learn different principles from nature and apply them to the robotic design. I also believe that robotics is a great tool for studying animal behavior and biology.
ReachBot: Martian Lava Tube Exploration
ReachBot is a new paradigm of a climbing robot where the robot comprises a small body with extendable space booms as appendages. This allows ReachBot to have an unprecedented workspace aimed to explore Martian lava tubes. We have built grippers, perception, and control algorithms for this robot and recently just conducted a field test of a partial ReachBot prototype in the Mojave Desert.
Aerial Grasping and Perching
Aerial robots such as quadrotors have unparalleled versatility as a platform but are still limited in their ability to interact with the environment. I work on building different grippers that enable aerial grasping and also perching. Through thoughtful mechanism design and clever framing of grasp sufficiency regions, we can greatly increase the robustness and simplify the control and perception needed to perform these tasks.
Gecko Gripper for Astrobee on the ISS
Astrobee is a free-flying robotic platform that is being used on the International Space Station (ISS), and it has a simple pinch-style gripper that enables Astrobee to perch on handrails when not in use. We have built a drop-in replacement gripper, utilizing gecko-inspired adhesives, to expand the perching workspace of Astrobee to all different flat surfaces aboard the ISS. This serves as a technology demonstration to eventually work on further space missions such as space debris capture with gecko-inspired adhesives.
This is a close collaboration with the Laboratory of Organismal Biology at Stanford. The American Poison Frog is one of the only frog species that pair-bond for life with both parents taking care of their offspring. To study the reasoning behind this evolution and the parental dynamics between the frog parents, I have built a robotic tadpole that tries to mimic the behavior of a real tadpole, triggering the parental behavior of the frog parents.