[robotics-worldwide] [jobs] Postdoc position available for "Design Principles for Soft Robots Based on Boundary Constrained Granular Swarms"

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[robotics-worldwide] [jobs] Postdoc position available for "Design Principles for Soft Robots Based on Boundary Constrained Granular Swarms"

Matthew Spenko
The University of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology are
seeking a postdoc to help develop new techniques for soft robotics as part
of the National Science Foundation's Continuum, Compliant, and Configurable
Soft Robotics Engineering program.  We seek candidates with a strong
background one or more of the following: distributed sensing and control,
swarm robotics, soft robotics, and mechatronics.  The candidate should also
have strong interpersonal skills and an ability to help lead and interact
with a team of Ph.D. and undergraduate students across multiple disciplines
including robotics, continuum mechanics, and soft condensed matter
physics.  The position will be filled at the UoC, but the candidate is
expected to work with teams at both the UoC and IIT. Funding is available
for four years. Interested candidates should send their CVs to *both*:

Matthew Spenko ([hidden email]) and Arvind Murugan ([hidden email]

A description of the project is given below:

This project will develop the framework to understand the modeling,
sensing, control, design, and fabrication of a new class of soft robots.
Most soft robots eschew the rigid links of traditional robots in favor of
compliant structures. In contrast, the robot designed in this work has its
"softness" emerge from the interactions among granular material encased in
a flexible membrane. The concept is best visualized by considering an
amoeba, in which an outer membrane loosely encapsulates a set of internal
components. By allowing components on the periphery of the membrane to be
active "sub-robots," much like the cilia on the periphery of a paramecium,
the overall structure can move and deform like a boundary-constrained
robotic swarm. Moreover, to manipulate objects and exert large forces on
the environment, the robot will also have the unique ability to jam.
Jamming occurs when particles become packed so closely that instead of
flowing past each other (like coffee grounds in a can) they form a solid
(like coffee grounds in a vacuum-packed bag).

The robot developed here will be the first to expand upon the concept of
granular soft robots by imagining the granules themselves as active robots.
While similar to robotic swarms, this new class of robots differs
significantly in that this project will be the first to examine how the
aggregate of sub-robots physically interacts with its environment. To make
this possible, novel modeling techniques will be created as well as sensing
and actuation algorithms. Modeling will take into account both multi-body
rigid dynamics for modeling the dynamics of sub-robot granules, large
deformation continuum mechanics for modeling sub-robot connections,
constraints to ensure the model predictions are physically viable, and
Lagrangian mechanics to bring all the elements together. The sensing and
actuation algorithms will exploit emergent intelligence of the boundary
swarm to sense the external environment and robustly actuate distinct
global behaviors in response to such distributed sensing without any
centralized planning.

Matthew Spenko
Associate Professor
The Robotics Lab
Illinois Institute of Technology
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[hidden email]