Student Projects

Master’s Project Proposals for Spring 2023 

We have updated the project offers for current EPFL students. Please e-mail the contacts directly. If you are applying to multiple projects, please contact [email protected] and specify which projects and your motivation for each project. 

Please tell us what you are interested in, your skillsets and past experiences + something that shows that (CV, website, photos, videos, github, etc), and your transcript.

We are always on the look out for highly motivated students for semester and master’s thesis projects.

Students from all research backgrounds are welcome – for example, mechanical engineering, bioengineering, computer science, materials etc.

Updated 20 Dec 2022


Design and manufacturing of a fully-fledged soft manipulator for in-house care (Thesis)

Summary:
In this thesis you will optimize the design of the soft manipulator presented in https://arxiv.org/pdf/2211.10188.pdf , to target real-world applications, such as in-house care. The goal of the thesis is to build a bigger (around 3m long), stronger, yet safe soft manipulator, equipped with embedded sensors and actuation. We look for students passionate about rapid prototyping, CAD and eager to build the new generation of soft robots. Potential publication of results in top Robotics venues.

Workload:80% design optimization and manufacturing, 20% performance evaluation and demonstration

Contact:
Francesco Stella ([email protected])


Understanding human preferences on manipulators in human-robot interaction (Thesis)

Summary:
Robots are still largely confined to controlled environments, far from the human reach. In the last decades the research community put a strong effort to design robots able to interact safely with humans. However, limited study have evaluated the human preference when it comes to close human-robot interactions. In this thesis you will study and compare the human acceptance between traditional rigid robots, collaborative robots, articulated and continuum soft manipulators with real-world tests and user-studies. We search for students eager to answer the question: what kind of robot do we really want around?

Workload: 30% Experiment design, 40% User study, 30% Data analysis.

Contact:
Francesco Stella ([email protected])


Animal behavior to robot design: a methodological framework for computational design of robot structures from animal synergies (Thesis)

Summary:
While biological systems display an incredible diversity in behaviors and motion capabilities, it has been shown that for most tasks, only a subspace of the possible poses is used. We propose to exploit these emerging principles from animal motor control as inspiration to guide robot design. In this thesis you will start by extracting such synergistic motions from animal videos and data-bases. Hence, you will develop a computational design method to translate the emerging synergies into precise robot specifications. Finally, you will transform the simulation results into the design of a fully fledged biomimetic robot. In particular, the thesis will be focused on continuing and optimizing the design, manufacturing and control of a biomimetic cheetah with a reduced set of actuators. Potential publication of results in top Robotics venues.

For reference see link: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=8373731

Workload:
80% design optimization and manufacturing, 20% performance evaluation and demonstration

Contact:
Francesco Stella ([email protected])


Setting a robot fleet control system for the Swiss CAT+ chemical sample transfer system (Thesis/Semester)

Summary:
In the framework of the Swiss CAT+ project, we have developed a concept for the transfer of chemical samples based on a fleet (or swarm) of mobile mini-robots developed locally and designed around the typical shape of the sample. For localization, they are equipped with LIDAR IMU and wheel encoders. We plan to have about 10 of these mini-robots running in a track suspended above the scientific instruments. The track and the robots already physically exist. We also already implemented the ROS Navigation Stack. The transfer between the scientific instruments and the mini-robots in their track will be handled by 6-axis cobots (Universal Robots 5e or 10e) assisted by a set of industrial cameras for precise positioning. Each 6-axis cobot will be considered as a station. The fleet of mobile mini-robots will be controlled within the track via the ROS framework by the laboratory scheduler and should be autonomous to systematically assign a free mini-robot to a requested station or to deliver a sample.

OSS. Previous ROS knowledge is highly desirable

Deliverables:

  • a. To make a scientific literature review for fleet control
  • b. To develop, within the framework of the ROS, a complete control system for a fleet of 10 mobile
  • mini-robots, 10 induction charging bases and 5 Universal Robots stations.
  • c. To establish a full simulation (ideally in Gazebo) based on the existing track form using the
  • control software developed in b.
  • d. If time permits, start the actual implementation of the developed control system in the Swiss
  • CAT+ environment.

Contact:
Vincenzo Scamarcio ([email protected])


Developing a complete solution for robotic chemical commercial bottles manipulations (Thesis)

Summary:
In the Swiss CAT+ project, we are developing a robotic module to standardise chemical solids from different types of commercial bottles up to 2 kg into homogeneously shaped 20 ml screw-capped plastic containers. The first step in this standardisation is the gripping of all commercial chemical bottles by a 6-axis cobot (type Universal Robot UR3e or UR5e). These bottles can have various shapes (cylindrical, round, square) and materials (glass, hard plastic, soft plastic such as PET) and weights ranging from 10 g to 2 kg depending on the density of the chemical product. Once the bottles have been seized, they must be kept stable and secured for subsequent operations such as pouring the contents into a standard container or allowing a sampler to enter the bottle and take a chemical sample.

Deliverables:

  • a. To review the scientific literature in the field of robotic safe gripping of variable shapes and
  • materials.
  • b. To review the existing solutions available on the market.
  • c. Select and acquire the most suitable tool.
  • d. If no convincing solution exists, design and develop a suitable prototype gripper.
  • e. Program the 6-axis UR cobot to work with the chosen gripper.
  • f. Validate through a series of reproducibility tests with different commercial bottles, the quality of
  • the gripping (systematicity, stability in case of robot movements with different accelerations…).

Contact:
Vincenzo Scamarcio ([email protected])


[closed] Cartesian Robots in a wet lab: dip and spray (Semester)

Summary:
The limit of what is achievable in a laboratory experiment is frequently defined by the researcher’s willingness to spend time on a repetitive task. Robots are more efficient than humans in this area, therefore, we want to modify two different cartesian robots to create layer-by-layer films. The first robot will perform the ‘dipping method’ (lab-scale substrates, up to 20 layers) (Already done in this semester) the latter will automate the ‘spray method’ (up to 200 layers) (To be done in this semester, focus of the project). The final objective is to find the optimal parameters to improve the film thickness error, found by using some characterization techniques


Workload (split of type of work): 

  • 40% Hardware design and construction
  • 40% Control of system
  • 20% Characterization + Optimization

Contact:
Vincenzo Scamarcio ([email protected])


How well can a robot handshake?  (Thesis x2 students most likely)

Summary:
The project is to investigate, to what extent can a robot fool a human in a handshaking task; i.e.: a Turing test for robotic handshaking. There are many layers and directions to this project, and the specific details of the project will be discussed based on the student’s interests expertise. Here are some directions. 

– Make a bio-inspired passive hand. By covering it with multiple layers (thin gloves, ski gloves, etc), at what point will humans be able to not detect the hand is a robot or human?

– How can we understand (and replicate in the future) human-human handshaking? With a passive hand with a large array of tactile sensors, can we obtain “sensor synergies” from the handshaking motion?

– What does the passive stiffness of the wrist play a role to convey the “human-ness” in hand-shaking tasks? 

– If we add active tendons (motorise some aspects of the hand), to what extent does twitching or slight gripping convey the “human-ness” in the hand-shaking task?

 

Workload:
– Fabrication of hand/sensors: 60%
– Developing test methods and experimental protocols for human tests: 10%
– Conducting the aforementioned experiments: 30%

Contact:
Kai ([email protected])


Sensorizing the environment – Developing physical twins for robotic manipulation (Thesis)

Summary:
Robotic manipulation at its heart is the interaction between the robot and the environment. To assess the quality of manipulation and train robotic manipulators in real life, a sensorized “object” which can “feel” how the robot interacts with it can be a useful tool. This project aims to lay the groundwork on creating sensorized “objects” with abilities (including but not limited to) such as: localization of contact, detection of forces, orientation and acceleration measurement, etc. Specific tasks of what this environment will be is to be discussed. Current ideas include a “cube” which the robot can manipulate in-hand and handling of tools such as kitchen tools. 

Some links for related technologies: 
https://arxiv.org/pdf/1803.00628.pdf
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=9762135
https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=9706272

The project requires a multidisciplinary skillest – mechanical design, fabrication, microcontrollers, coding and analysis.

Workload:
– Exploration of technologies to develop the physical twin: 40%
– Developing and (some)characterisation of the twin: 60%

Contact:
Kai ([email protected])


(Closed) Tactile Sensor development (Thesis/Semester)

Summary: 
Sensing technologies are essential to develop intelligent robots that can interact and respond to the environment. Commercial sensors usual are engineered well to have reliable, repeatable, and often precise measurements, but can be difficult to integrate into novel hardware as they are constrained by their geometry or other properties set by the manufacturer. In this project, there are two directions. 

One is to investigate and explore a variety of sensing technologies which can be developed in house, mostly focusing on tactile sensing. This is an exploratory project, with the aim for the student to try different technologies to see their feasibilities and pros/cons for future robotic implementation. Some starting points include: EIT tactile skins, hydrogel tactile skin, re-implementation of ReSkin (tactile sensing through Hall effect sensors), developing conductive silicone, and combinations of the aforementioned.

Another is to apply existing (or possibly new) tactile sensing technologies explored in the lab to apply them on robotic hands. This would include a lot of trial and error in prototyping the correct shape and manufacturing technique for the application, but also ensuring stability and simplicity in the design such that the sensor can robustly function while the robot is in operation. Design of PCB modules to read the sensors is also another necessary step, although not the priority. 

Prior experience with mechatronics prototyping is recommended but not strictly necessary. 

Workload: 
– Exploration of options “out there”: 20%
– Testing and prototyping different sensors: 60%
– Combining (or rejecting) certain sensors to finalise on a design: 20%

Contact:
Kai ([email protected])


(Closed) RoboCup @Home MAKE Project (Semester)

Summary: 
RoboCup @Home is a MAKE Project where we aim to build a home service robot to participate in the international robotics competition: RoboCup. The aim of this project is to work on the software systems of the robot. Software tasks will be around navigation and behavioural tree of the robot.

In both cases, the student should have some level prior experience in relevant fields, as the project requires practical knowledge to integrate state of the art technologies. Specific project directions will be discussed with each student based on their interest and past experience. 

Workload: 
– 80% technical development / robotic integration 
– 20% decision making and planning of the project with other team members

Contact:
Kai ([email protected])


Worming up: Ascending a taut tether with a soft robot to capture atmospheric measurements

Summary:
A kite can be used to capture atmospheric measurements for environmental monitoring. It is of interest to capture data along its tether. Despite their simple design cable stockings can hold large loads. In our lab, we are building tendon-driven soft robot structures which can deform under load and are actuated. These soft robots follow a similar design pattern to cable stockings. The goal of this project is to modify our soft robots to ascend on a taut tether. The robot will then be evaluated in comparison to a conventional wheel based robotic line ascender. The student should have prior experience in 3D printing and rapid prototyping. 

Workload:
– 15% literature review
– 30% design of soft robotic line ascender
– 35% fabrication of soft robotic line ascender
– 20% evaluation of soft robotic line ascender

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])



Towards Spider-Robot

Summary: 
Aerial robots have advantageous locomotion in free space and do not require to interact with their environment while moving. However, this freedom of motion comes at a reduced locomotion efficiency (with typical flight times in the range of minutes). Ground vehicles on the other side are continuously interacting with their environment requiring advanced perception and controllers to move stable. In this project, we explore hybrid locomotion of a tethered robot which exploits swinging dynamics to preserve energy while moving and limited interactions with its environment, e.g. when forming new attachments. The student should have prior experience in rapid, mechanical prototyping and fabrication.

Workload:
– 10 % literature review
– 20 % narrowing down scenario
– 35% prototype concepts
– 35% evaluation of implemented concepts

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])


Design of a power system for tethered robots

Summary:
In our lab, we are developing robots that are intended to operate in extremely harsh conditions, e.g. on glaciers, caves or tropical forests, where conventional operation modes (connectivity, power, locomotion) face severe drawbacks. Virtually all robots are tethered at one point in their life, be it for debugging or extended duration experiments. Thus tethers are vital and therefore our robot systems are continuously connected through tethers by design. A tether can provide communication, power and safety. The student will design a tether management system which meets these criteria. The tether management system will be deployed to a dangling, rappelling robot intended to explore subglacial cavities. The student should have prior experience with power electronics, communication links and mechanical design.

Workload: 
– 30 % research on available components and component selection, e.g. power, communication
– 40% design of sensorized, actuated winch mechanism
– 30% characterization and evaluation of mechanism

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])


Anchor point estimation for actuated, dangling robots

Summary:
A tethered, rappelling bicopter can be used to explore unknown, complex environments e.g. glacial crevasses or tree canopies. Its tether can provide a communication link, power and safety. Depending on its past trajectory the tether can form intermediate anchor points in the environment. These anchor points influence the dynamic behaviour of the robot. From the observed dynamic behaviour of the robot, i.e. its swinging motion, we can estimate the location of the last intermediate anchor point. With an estimate of the last intermediate anchor point, it is feasible to plan a trajectory to successfully detach from said anchor point. The student will develop a simple simulation to capture the described dynamics of the system. Further, the student develops an algorithm to estimate the tether length below the last anchor point for our tethered bicopter. The develop algorithm is evaluated in simulation and on the real robot.

Workload: 
– 30% develop simulation
– 40% develop/test algorithm in simulation
– 30% implement algorithm on real system 

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])


Learning ROS with ROSbloX

Summary:
The Robot Operating System (ROS2) is becoming the de facto standard in programming complex robotic systems. However, getting started with ROS (in Python or CPlusPlus) can be challenging and overwhelming, particularly when starting with no prior knowledge and learning self-paced. In our Lab, we have developed ROSbloX to ease the entrance into the ROS world for students with no prior knowledge in ROS. In this project, the student will evaluate the quality of our available ROSbloX, e.g. for Lidars, cameras, GNSS systems, IMUs. Further, the student will define metrics to assess how ROSbloX simplify the introduction of novel students to ROS. Prior knowledge of ROS2, Docker, Linux, Single Board Computers is of advantage. You get the chance to take over responsibility for an open source project and to continuously contribute to its future development. 

Workload: 
– 20% understand problems faced by students when working with ROS
– 15% familiarise with existing ROSbloX
– 25% define metrics to assess qualtiy of ROSbloX
– 25% data collection through survey to apply developed metrics
– 15% improve/advance idea behind ROSbloX

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])


Advanced control of a rappelling, tethered bicopter

Summary:
Tethering robots can be advantageous in numerous scenarios. A tether can provide a reliable, high-bandwidth communication link, safety and power. A rappelling, tethered bicopter has been designed to retrieve ice samples in a glacier. The platform is self-stabilising. However, depending on the flown path, the stabilisation can be sped-up by developing and implementing novel control algorithms. The student will analyse the system and implement a simulation to capture the observed behaviour. Afterwards, the student will come up with novel control strategies to stabilise the robot faster. The control strategies are evaluated in simulation and on the real robot. 

Workload: 
– 25% understanding dynamics of the system
– 25% implementing simulation to capture system dynamics
– 25% developing novel control algorithms
– 25% implementing novel control algorithms in simulation and on real robot

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])


Visual data logging in field robotics

Summary: 
Many field robots are equipped with either stereo or monocular cameras. Often processing their image streams (rectifying, running machine learning inference, logging) poses the highest load on a robot’s onboard computer. The bandwidth of onboard computers is usually limited and enough resources must be available for mission-critical tasks. In this project, several image processing pipelines are implemented and benchmarked to select an optimal pipeline to log visual data (either onboard or remote). The image processing pipelines of particular interest are Nvidia’s hardware accelerated NITROS image processing pipeline, the default CPU-only ROS2 image processing pipeline, and finally the ZED Stereo camera’s pipeline implemented in the ZED camera’s SDK. The student should have prior experience working with ROS2, Docker, Linux, Single Board Computers (ideally Nvidia Jetson).

Workload: 
– 20% selection of (feasible) image processing pipelines
– 40% implementation of image processing/logging pipelines
– 40% implementation of benchmarking metrics 

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])


Environmental Sensing with a Soft Manipulator on a Robotic Line Ascender 

Summary: 
Biodiversity is a measure of our ecosystem’s health. Particularly in mountainous regions, the migration of low-altitude species to higher altitudes is an indicator of the speed of a changing climate. Monitoring biodiversity, particularly studying smaller species, e.g. insects, and plants is meticulous work. Robots provide a means to automate these tasks partially. However, the turbulence of thrusters prevents the application of uncrewed aerial vehicles. In this project, the student builds up on previous work in our lab to expand our tethered robot platform with a soft manipulator such that it can measure biodiversity in our backyard. This is a robotics project. It involves designing the hardware, programming and testing it.

Workload: 
– 20% Exploring available concepts
– 30% Hardware design and implementation
– 30% Software and control algorithm design and implementation
– 20% Experiments

Contact:
Max Polzin ([email protected])


[closed] Optimal stiffening of a fish tail (Thesis preferred)

Summary:
Being able to actively control the stiffness of a soft structure will allow us to build more capable soft robots, in particular for bioinspired underwater robots that harvest maneuvering energy from the fluid environment. We have previously created “pouches” that we can insert into silicone structures that can stiffen them in different ways. The goal of the project would be to find the best design for these pouches so we can efficiently stiffen or soften a fishtail on demand. The tail should be implemented on robotic hardware for testing the capabilities.

Workload:
– Design and fabrication: 40%
– Analysis and characterization of stiffening: 60%

Contact
Nana Obayashi ([email protected])


[closed] Design and sensorization of a robotic sea turtle (Thesis/Semester) 

Summary:
Development of sensory and control systems for an underwater swimming sea-turtle robot.  This includes imaging, water quality and other sensory feedback.  We will also explore how we can use this information to enable autonomous exploration. 

Workload:
75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% control/simulation

Contact
Nana Obayashi ([email protected])


[closed] Evolutionary and regenerative exploration of falling paper morphology (Thesis/Semester)

Summary: Robotic investigation of how passive structure shapes or morphology (such as helicopter seeds) came to be. We will look into evolutionary and regenerative algorithms to reverse engineer how these structures were optimized by nature. Large scale robotic experimentation will also be used. 

Workload:
50% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 50% optimization, learning, algorithm development

Contact
Nana Obayashi ([email protected])


[closed] Robotic art in the fluid environment (Thesis/Semester)

Summary:
Is there a way to emulate emotion using robots in the fluid environment? An example (although not in fluids) would be to investigate reactions from robotic arm by changing the impedance of the arm based on human pose in dancing. This is an exploratory project idea. Please contact if you are interested!

Workload:
10% Literature review, 50% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 40% optimization, learning, algorithm development

Contact
Nana Obayashi ([email protected])


[closed] Robotic phenotyping using Farmbot for co-optimization of crop environmental impact and nutritional value (Thesis)

Summary:
Climate change, ever-increasing population and imbalanced dietary requirements poses a significant challenge for conventional crops and agricultural methods.The aim of the project is to set up the cartesian Farmbot as robotic phenotyping system and develop full physical automation of seeding, environmental control, harvesting and the assessment of the nutritional value of the crops using the cartesian ‘farm bot’. The data generated will be used to have efficient growing methods.

The project requires multidisciplinary skills – mechanical design, fabrication, microcontrollers, coding and data analysis.

Workload:
30% Setup hardware for data acquisition
40% Software algorithms and sensor calibration
30% Data analysis

Contact:
Shiv Katiyar ([email protected])


Robotic platform for investigation of flocculation in beverages (Thesis/Semester)

Summary: 
During the beverage formulation process it is often investigated how developed food product (e.g. coffee) interacts with other beverages like milk. With variation in beverages (e.g. dairy or plant based milk) or even in their formulation, significantly different behaviour in terms of colour, flocculation, sedimentation or foaming of the resulting mixture is detected. Acquired information is used for the objective assessment of the resulting mixture but more importantly as a metric for the further optimization of the constituent ingredients (milk, coffee etc.).

Goal of this project is to develop a robotic system which is able to repeatedly combine two manually prepared beverages, mix them if necessary and keep the temperature constant. Resulting beverage will be then assessed using computer vision methods primarily for  the flocculation and phase separation. Assessment of sedimentation, foaming, color or other relevant metric will be explored if possible.

The robot design will be based on the frame of the 3D printer and with the gripper which needs to be designed, such system can repeatability and reliably perform pick, place, pour and mix tasks. Integration of other necessary equipment (e.g. temperature control or camera) has to be done within this constrained environment.

There are no requirements considering computer vision methods, but it is preferred that assessment should be performed using Python and preferably OpenCV library, but other suggestions are most welcome.

Workload: 
– 40% design and building of robotic system
– 60% implementation of image processing pipelines

Contact:
Stefan Ilic ([email protected])


Robotic Simulation Toolkit for Education (Thesis/Semester)

Summary:

Educational Robotics helps students of all ages familiarise and expand their knowledge of robotics and programming. while learning other cognitive skills.Given the physical form of the robot and its control system, it is particularly promising to make robotic systems adaptable to tasks and the environment. This project will aim to use robotic simulation for morphology and computational thinking education. 

https://gears.aposteriori.com.sg/

Workload: 

  • 20% Explore education robotic elements 
  • 30% Design learning activities 
  • 50% Experiment and analysis data

 Contact person: Alan Wu ([email protected])


Robotic Education with AI guidance (Thesis/Semester)

Summary:

Educational Robotics helps students of all ages familiarise and expand their knowledge of robotics and programming. while learning other cognitive skills. This project will aim to use AI to give guidance and suggestions to students instead of human instructors. The task for experiment subjects will be building a robotic gripper. The AI can give advice to experiment subjects when they are facing problems. We compare the learning performance between human assistants and AI assistance.

Workload: 

  • 20% Explore learning outcome evaluation methods 
  • 30% Refine learning activities and define evaluation process
  • 50% Experiment and analysis data

 Contact person: Alan Wu ([email protected])

 

 

Animal behavior to robot design: a methodological framework for computational design of robot structures from animal synergies

Summary: While biological systems display an incredible diversity in behaviors and motion capabilities, it has been shown that for most tasks, only a subspace of the possible poses is used. We propose to exploit these emerging principles from animal motor control as inspiration to guide robot design. In this thesis you will start by extracting such synergistic motions from animal videos and data-bases. Hence, you will develop a computational design method to translate the emerging synergies into precise robot specifications. Finally, you will transform the simulation results into the design of a fully fledged biomimetic robot. In particular, the thesis will be focused on the design, manufacturing and control of a biomimetic cheetah with a reduced set of actuators. Potential publication of results in top Robotics venues.

For reference see link: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=8373731 

Workload:

  • 10% Extraction of existing synergies from videos and open-source databases of animal motion (Computer vision, Inverse Kinematic and order-reduction methods)
  • 10% Development of a computational method for mechanical design specifications (Evolutionary algorithms)
  • 80% Design and testing of a cheetah robot (Mechatronic design)

Contact person: Francesco Stella


IMUblock: A modular and ready-to-go solution to the pose estimation problem of soft robots

Summary: Due to the inherent compliance, soft robots are able to deform in infinite degrees of freedom. Moreover, the limited availability of physically compatible sensors, makes the shape estimation of soft robotic systems extremely challenging. In this project you will develop the modular and scalable solution – IMUblock – to this problem by leveraging IMU technology and discretized models of soft robots. The IMUblock will then be evaluated experimentally on a growing, extendable continuum soft manipulator. Potential publication of results in top Robotics venues.

For reference see link: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-71151-1_48 

Workload:

  • 50% Design of a modular, wireless IMU sensor (Rapid Prototyping, Electronic design)
  • 20% Embed a filter based on reduced orders of soft robots (PCC) in the IMUblock (C++, Python, ROS) 
  • 30% Test the novel sensor solution on existing soft manipulators.  

Contact person: Francesco Stella, Max Polzin


Soft Robotic Toolkit for Education

Summary: Educational Robotics helps students of all ages familiarize and expand their knowledge of robotics and programming. while learning other cognitive skills. There are many modular educational robots in the market but there is a missing piece, soft component. The aim of this project is to develop a toolkit with several soft components such as soft actuators.

Workload:

  • 20% Explore soft robotic elements
  • 30% Design several modular soft robotic components
  • 30% Manufacture
  • 20% Testing

Contact person: Yi-Shiun Wu


Cartesian Robot with custom gripper and computer vision

Summary: Laboratories are ripe for automation as they are semi-structured.  Cartesian robots offer precision motions, yet typically rigid end effectors are used.  By combining a cartesian robot with a compliant gripper and computer vision and modular equipment, we want to explore the complexity of tasks that can be accomplished.

Workload:

  • 40% Hardware design and construction
  • 20% Interfacing electronics
  • 40% Control of system and computer vision

Contact person: Stefan Ilic, Vincenzo Scamarcio


Cartesian Robots in a wet lab: dip and spray

Summary: The limit of what is achievable in a laboratory experiment is frequently defined by the researcher’s willingness to spend time on a repetitive task. Robots are more efficient than humans in this area, therefore, we want to modify two different cartesian robots to create layer-by-layer films. The first robot will perform the ‘dipping method’ (lab-scale substrates, up to 20 layers) the latter will automate the ‘spray method’ (up to 200 layers). The final objective is to find the optimal parameters to improve the film thickness error, found by using some characterization techniques.

Workload:

  • 40% Hardware design and construction
  • 40% Control of system
  • 20% Characterization + Optimization

Contact person: Vincenzo Scamarcio


Fabrication and characterization of a variable stiffness soft structure

Summary: Being able to actively control the stiffness of a soft structure will allow us to build more capable soft robots, in particular for bioinspired underwater robots that harvest maneuvering energy from the fluid environment. In this project, you will explore techniques that are used to achieve variable stiffness for soft silicone structures, such as  an underwater soft tentacle. The aim for this project is to investigate mechanisms for high stiffness variation, characterizing the structural behavior, and if successful, implement on robotic hardware for maneuverability demonstrations. 

Related references: 

Workload: 20% mechanical design, 50% design iteration, exploration, and fabrication, 30% prototyping with microcontrollers

Contact person: Nana Obayashi


Exploration of emergent limit cycles of floating objects in water

Summary: To design better robots that exploit the fluidic environment such as water, it is important to study the bio-inspired interactions between morphologies. Non-contact manipulation is seen in nature, for example in tool usages by marine animals. This project involves the development of an experimental setup for manipulating objects in water using soft structures and exploring the emergent behaviors of these objects. It was previously seen that certain “limit cycles” can be observed from non-contact manipulation of floating objects using a structure similar to a soft fin. This will be a highly exploratory project on characterizing the emergent limit cycles to help us understand how we can design robots that exploit the fluid environment for a given task. 

Related references: 

Workload: 20% mechanical design, 60% design iteration, exploration, and fabrication, 20% prototyping with microcontrollers

Contact person: Nana Obayashi

 


Robotic phenotyping for co-optimization of crop environmental impact and nutritional value

Summary: Food production and agriculture are facing enormous challenges due to factors such as climate change, ever-increasing population and imbalanced dietary requirements. This poses a significant challenge for conventional crops and agricultural methods. Agri-robotics opens the potential for mass direct in-field phenotyping of crops under true farm conditions. The aim of the project is to set up the cartesian farmbot as a robotic phenotyping system and develop full physical automation of seeding, environmental control, harvesting and the assessment of the nutritional value of the crops using the cartesian ‘farm bot’.

The project requires multidisciplinary skills – mechanical design, fabrication, microcontrollers, coding and data analysis.

Workload:

  • 30% Setup hardware for data acquisition
  • 40% Software algorithms and sensor calibration
  • 30% Data analysis

Contact person: Shiv Katiyar


Topographic terrAin Modeling for Agricultural Robots (TAMAR)

Type: Semester Project
Summary: Robust rough terrain navigation of uncrewed ground vehicles enables their usage for novel agricultural applications, especially in environments where the usage of traditional farming machinery is impossible, e.g. autonomous harvesting in steep vineyards or orchards. However, testing uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV) on natural slopes is a cumbersome and potentially dangerous task. In this project, a simulation of the slopes of a Swiss vineyard is developed to evaluate novel designs for agricultural robots. The simulation a) imports topological information provided by the Swiss Federal Office of Topography and b) includes a data-driven traction model for UGVs maneuvering on steep terrain. The accuracy of the developed simulation is validated experimentally.

Keywords: Terrain simulation, data-driven modeling, mapping
Workload: 15% literature research, 30% experiments, 55% simulation development
Contact Person: Max Polzin


Topologically constrained planning for robots operating in precipitous environments (TOP-ROPE)

Type: Semester Project / Master Thesis
Summary: Tethered rappelling uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV) have potential applications in future agricultural systems, especially where the terrain prevents the usage of traditional systems, e.g. autonomous harvesting in steep vineyards or orchards. While a tether connected to a UGV expands its operating area to steep slopes, it imposes additional constraints when planning feasible paths for said UGV. In this project, novel path planning algorithms which consider the constraints imposed by a tether connected to a UGV are developed.

Keywords: Path planning, robotic navigation
Workload: 20% literature research, 35% simulation experiments, 45% thinking
Contact Person: Max Polzin


Anchor deployment and Collection for Tethered Robots Exploring Steep Slopes (ACTRESS)

Type: Semester Project / Master Thesis
Summary: Uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV) have potential applications in future agricultural systems, e.g. automatic harvesting, phenotyping, weed control and pest management. Agricultural terrain is generally challenging to maneuver in, especially when driving on slopes such as in steep vineyards and orchards. A UGV can be equipped with a winch and tether to a) expand its maneuverable space and b) to improve its recovery capabilities from catastrophic failures. The maneuverable space of a UGV which is connected to an anchor point by a tether differs from the maneuverable space of an untethered one. In this project a dynamic anchoring system is developed to be deployed and retracted autonomously by a UGV, to maximize its maneuvering capabilities.

Keywords: Mechatronics prototyping
Workload: 10% literature research, 50% mechanical design, 40% experiments
Contact Person: Max Polzin


Automated Robot Testing In Steep Terrain (ARTIST)

Type: Semester Project / Master Thesis
Summary: Improving the maneuverability of uncrewed ground vehicles (UGV) on natural slopes enables novel applications of UGVs in agriculture, e.g. autonomous harvesting in vineyards or orchards. However, testing UGVs and novel algorithms on natural slopes is a cumbersome and potentially dangerous task. Thus, a platform to simulate driving on changing slopes with different surface textures is developed. The platform alters the direction of the gravitational force acting on the systems under test. Altering the direction of the gravitational force requires lifting and pulling respectively pushing the systems under test with a constant force. In this project, a system is designed and implemented to exert a varying force on a UGV.

Keywords: Dynamic systems, motor control
Workload: 35% system design, 40% experiments, 25% control
Contact Person: Max Polzin


Fabrication and characterisation of a soft sensorized fingertip

Type: Semester Project
Summary: Tactile sensing is key to achieving robust dexterous manipulation when using robot hands. Previous methods of tactile sensing include using cameras to measure the deformation of soft material and attaching integrated PCB electronics on fingertip. In this project, you will explore methods of using 3D printable soft conductive filament to manufacture a fingertip sensor which can be used directly from the print. The aim for this project is to investigate different morphologies of 3D printed sensors (provided with a few starting points), measure/understand their response, and if successful implement it on a robot finger.

Keywords: Soft sensors, mechatronics prototyping
Workload: 15% mechanical design, 50% design iteration, exploration, and fabrication, 30% electronics
Contact Person: Kai Junge


Topology optimization for soft electronic skins

Type: Semester Project
Summary: Soft electronic skins (E-skins) capable of tactile pressure sensing have the potential to endow robotic systems with many of the same somatosensory properties of natural human skin. In this project, you will first develop computational methods to optimize the relation between topology and sensitivity for a grid of soft pressure sensors. Hence, the simulation results will be brought to real life, evaluating manufacturing possibilities and limitations arising from 3D printing and casting techniques. Finally, the design performance will be evaluated on a specific application such as safe human-robot interaction, dexterous manipulation, or guided rehabilitation.

Keywords: Soft sensors, optimal design, mechatronics prototyping
Workload: 60% simulation and optimization , 30% system design and experiments, 10% proof of concept application
Contact Person: Francesco Stella


Low-cost, sensorized, finger prosthetics for developing countries

Type: Semester Project
Summary: The World Health Organization estimates that, in the developing world, there are 40 million amputees, and only 5% of them have access to any form of prosthetic care. Several initiatives, by academic and non-profit organizations community, have already tried to leverage rapid prototyping techniques to propose a solution to this problem. In this project you will contribute to this collective knowledge, developing a parametric design of a finger prosthetic with embedded tactile sensors that can be quickly personalized and 3d-printed. The design will then be quantitatively tested and validated. Finally, if the design process is successful, the design will be sent and evaluated by amputees in Mali. 
For reference: Limbs International, “Why Limbs,” [Online]. Available: https://www.limbsinternational.org/why-limbs.php. 2015.

Keywords: Prosthetics, embedded sensors, prototyping
Workload: 80% design , 20% experimental validation
Contact Person: Francesco Stella


IMU sensor fusion for soft robotics

Type: Semester Project / Master Thesis
Summary: Due to the inherent compliance, soft robots are able to deform in infinite degrees of freedom. Moreover, the limited availability of physically compatible sensors, makes the shape estimation of soft robotic systems extremely challenging. In this project you will combine discretized models of soft robots, such as the constant curvature model, with state of the art sensor fusion algorithms. The algorithm will then be evaluated experimentally on a growing, extendable 3D printed continuum body structure with embedded IMUs.
For reference, see link

Keywords: Soft robotics, Kalman filtering, IMUs
Workload: 80% algorithm design , 20% experimental validation
Contact Person: Francesco Stella


Control optimization and steering of underwater swimmers

Type: Semester Project
Summary: There are several simple soft underwater swimmer platforms that are of interest. One focus of the project will be the optimization of actuation control for the underwater swimmers. We will also investigate different methods of controlling the trajectory of the swimmer (eg. drag-based, differential thrust, etc) and explore how we can use this to enable autonomous exploration. 

Keywords: Soft robotics, optimization, control, computer vision, electronics
Workload: 60% control/simulation, 40% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing)
Contact Person: Nana Obayashi


Underwater object manipulation with air bubbles

Type: Semester Project / Master Thesis
Summary: Development of experimental setup for manipulating objects/debris underwater leveraging air bubbles or soft structures. We take inspiration from sea creatures, such as dolphins and whales that use “bubble nets” to capture prey. We will also investigate methods for simulating these complex solid-fluid interactions.

Keywords: Manipulation, computer vision, prototyping, electronics, sensing, control, simulation
Workload: 75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% control/simulation
Contact Person: Nana Obayashi


Agricultural Robotics: Robotic optimization of plant growing conditions

Type: Semester Project / Master Thesis
Summary: Using a cartesian robot (farmbot) we want to develop feedback control based on computer vision to assess plant growth and optimize conditions through running robotic growing experiments. Can we make plants grow faster, and can be predict their performance from early stage growth?

Keywords: Feedback control, optimization, agricultural robotics, computer vision
Workload: 75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% control/simulation
Contact Person: Shiv Katiyar


‘Robotic Scientist’ Intelligent automation of experimental analysis (titration)

Type: Semester Project / Master Thesis
Summary: Develop the hardware, control and computer vision to intelligently automate titration experiments.  Many experiments require the use of burette to perform titration, where the colour change is used to indicate when the experiment should be terminated.  Currently this is highly manual and there are significant problems with repeatability and reliability.  Automating this process will be highly impactful, and also enable more intelligent methods to be explored.

Keywords: Mechatronics prototyping, computer vision, control
Workload: 60% design and implementation , 20% computer vision, 20% control
Contact Person: Stefan Ilic


Mechanism for Growing Robots

Type: Master Thesis
Summary: Biological systems show a significant ability to change and alter their structure through growth.  A number of mechanisms for growth have been developed for robotic structures.  Here, we want to develop mechanisms that allow for plant-inspired growth – i.e. structures that can ‘grow’ and subdivide, to allow us to create large scale structures through growth. 

Keywords: Mechatronics prototyping, control
Workload: 80% design and implementation , 20% control
Contact Person: Shiv Katiyar


 

Design and fabrication of sensorized bioinspired robots hands (Semester/Full Masters Project)

Summary: Starting for biological inspiration, use novel 3D printing technologies and casting to rapid fabricate robotic hands with incorporated soft sensors. Investigate the design optimization of the sensor placement, and utilize multi-body, multi-material FEA based simulators to optimize control.

Keywords: Bio-inspired robotics, soft sensors, control, design optimization.
Workload: 75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% control/simulation


Agricultural Robotics: Robotic optimization of plant growing conditions (Semester/Full Masters Project)

Summary: Using a cartesian robot (farmbot) we want to develop feedback control based on computer vision to assess plant growth and optimize conditions through running robotic growing experiments. Can we make plants grow faster, and can be predict their performance from early stage growth? 

Keywords: Feedback control, optimization, agricultural robotics, computer vision
Workload: 75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% control/simulation


Optimization of Robotic Sea Turtle Flipper (Morphology and Control) (Semester/Full Masters Project)

Summary: The development of soft swimming robots is particularly challenging due to the interactions of the soft body with the fluid.  Here, we want to leverage modelling techniques and data-driven methods to optimize the design of the flippers for a sea-turtle and also the controllers. 

Keywords: Manipulation, computer vision, sensing, feedback, optimization, learning
Workload: 75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% control/simulation


Sensorization of a Robotic Sea Turtle (Semester/Full Masters Project)

Summary: Development of sensory and control systems for an underwater swimming sea-turtle robot.  This includes imaging, water quality and other sensory feedback.  We will also explore how we can use this information to enable autonomous exploration. 

Keywords: Sensing, control, computer vision, electronics.
Workload: 75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% control/simulation


Evolutionary Design of Soft Sensors (Semester/Full Masters Project)

Summary: The design of soft sensors for tactile perception significantly affects their performance.  Using new fabrication techniques for soft sensors, we will develop evolutionary approaches to optimize the design for different tasks.

Keywords: Sensing, control, optimization, 3D printing, fabrication
Workload: 50% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 50% optimization, learning, algorithm development

 


Wearable Sensorized Gloves (Semester/Full Masters Project)

Summary: utilizing our novel fluidic soft sensors and knitted sensorized sensors, develop gloves which perform on-board real-time sensor processing.  In addition incorporate activ efunctionality – e.g. control adhesion, or actuation 

Keywords: Sensing, control, optimization,  fabrication
Workload: 75% experimental (design, fabrication, experimental testing), 25% optimization, learning, algorithm development