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Three papers to be presented at IDETC/CIE

Our group will be sharing 3 papers on new results at ASME IDETC/CIE this year!

Dongsheng Chen, Zonghao Huang, Cynthia Sung: Electronics Design and Verification for Robots With Actuation and Sensing Requirements. ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC/CIE), Forthcoming.

Abstract: Robot design is a challenging problem involving a balance between the robot’s mechanical design, kinematic structure, and actuation and sensing capabilities. Recent work in computational robot design has focused on mechanical design while assuming that the given actuators are sufficient for the task. At the same time, existing electronics design tools ignore the physical requirements of the actuators and sensors in the circuit. In this paper, we present the first system that closes the loop between the two, incorporating a robot’s mechanical requirements into its circuit design process. We show that the problem can be solved using an iterative search consisting of two parts. First, a dynamic simulator converts the mechanical design and the given task into concrete actuation and sensing requirements. Second, a circuit generator executes a branch-and-bound search to convert the design requirements into a feasible electronic design. The system iterates through both of these steps, a process that is sometimes required since the electronics components add mass that may affect the robot’s design requirements. We demonstrate this approach on two examples — a manipulator and a quadruped — showing in both cases that the system is able to generate a valid electronics design.

Guanyu Chen, Dongsheng Chen, Jessica Weakly, Cynthia Sung: Drag coefficient characterization of the origami magic ball. In: ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC/CIE), Forthcoming.

Abstract: The drag coefficient plays a vital role in the design and optimization of robots that move through fluids. From aircraft to underwater vehicles, their geometries are specially engineered so that the drag coefficients are as low as possible to achieve energy-efficient performances. Origami magic balls are 3-dimensional reconfigurable geometries composed of repeated simple waterbomb units. Their volumes can change as their geometries vary and we have used this concept in a recent underwater robot design. This paper characterizes the drag coefficient of an origami magic ball in a wind tunnel. Through dimensional analysis, the scenario where the robot swims underwater is equivalently transferred to the situation when it is in the wind tunnel. With experiments, we have collected and analyzed the drag force data. It is concluded that the drag coefficient of the magic ball increases from around 0.64 to 1.26 as it transforms from a slim ellipsoidal shape to an oblate spherical shape. Additionally, three different magic balls produce increases in the drag coefficient of between 57% and 86% on average compared to the smooth geometries of the same size and aspect ratio. The results will be useful in future designs of robots using waterbomb origami in fluidic environments.

Cristina Wilson, Kallahan Brown, Cynthia Sung: The Impact of Robotics Expertise on Iterative Robot Design Decisions and Vulnerability to Anchoring Bias. ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference (IDETC/CIE), Forthcoming.

Abstract: Robot design is a complex cognitive activity that requires the designer to iteratively navigate multiple engineering disciplines and the relations between them. In this paper, we explore how people approach robot design and how trends in design strategy vary with the level of expertise of the designer. Using our interactive Build-a-Bot software tool, we recruited 39 participants from the 2022 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. These participants varied in age from 19 to 56 years, and had between 0 and 17 years of robotics experience. We tracked the participants’ design decisions over the course of a 15~min. task of designing a ground robot to cross an uneven environment. Our results showed that participants engaged in iterative testing and modification of their designs, but unlike previous studies, there was no statistically significant effect of participant’s expertise on the frequency of iterations. We additionally found that, across levels of expertise, participants were vulnerable to anchoring-and-adjustment, in which they latched onto an initial design concept and insufficiently adjusted the design, even when confronted with difficulties developing the concept into a satisfactory solution.
The results raise interesting questions for how future engineers can avoid design bias and how design tools can assist in both efficient assessment and optimization of design workflow for complex design tasks.

Shivangi’s paper accepted to ICRA + Workshop on Origami Robotics

Congrats to Shivangi, Mason, and Rongqian on their ICRA paper!

Shivangi Misra, Mason Mitchell, Rongqian Chen, Cynthia Sung: Design and Control of a Tunable-Stiffness Coiled-Spring Actuator. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2023.

Abstract: We propose a novel design for a lightweight and compact tunable stiffness actuator capable of stiffness changes up to 20x. The design is based on the concept of a coiled spring, where changes in the number of layers in the spring change the bulk stiffness in a near-linear fashion. We present an elastica nested rings model for the deformation of the proposed actuator and empirically verify that the designed stiffness-changing spring abides by this model. Using the resulting model, we design a physical prototype of the tunable-stiffness coiled spring actuator and discuss the effect of design choices on the resulting achievable stiffness range and resolution. In the future, this actuator design could be useful in a wide variety of soft robotics applications, where fast, controllable, and local stiffness change is required over a large range of stiffnesses.

ICRA workshop on origami-based structures for designing soft robots with new capabilities

We are also excited to announce a workshop on Origami-based Structures for Designing Soft Robots with New Capabilities, which will be held on Monday, May 29.

More info at:

New algorithm for tubular origami design

Check out our newest paper published in IEEE T-RO, where we provide an algorithm for automatically converting a DH specification for an arbitrary serial linkage into an origami design.

Wei-Hsi Chen, Woohyeok Yang, Lucien Peach, Daniel E. Koditschek, Cynthia R. Sung: Kinegami: Algorithmic Design of Compliant Kinematic Chains From Tubular Origami. In: IEEE Transactions on Robotics, vol. 39, iss. 2, pp. 1260-1280, 2022.

Full paper at:

Cynthia Sung receives ONR Young Investigator Award

Cynthia Sung received a 2023 ONR Young Investigator Award to work on “Salp-Inspired Reconfigurable Robot Platform for Long-Term Distributed Sensing.” We are so excited to work on this project with program manager Dr. Tom McKenna!

Related publication:

Zhiyuan Yang, Dongsheng Chen, David J. Levine, Cynthia Sung: Origami-inspired robot that swims via jet propulsion. In: IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 7145-7152, 2021.