MISSION

The Organic Robotics Lab (ORL) focuses on using synthetic adaptation of natural physiology to improve machine function and autonomy. Our research spans three primary areas: bioinspired robotics, soft sensors and displays, and advanced manufacturing. We use soft materials, mechanical design, and novel fabrication methods to replicate sensory organs such as dermal papillae, replicate organs that rely on actuation such as the heart, and to power soft actuators and robots.

OUTREACH

Professor Rob Shepherd is an Engaged Learning + Research Faculty Fellow at Cornell University. One of our primary goals is to convert the iterative design & manufacturing process developed in professor Shepherd's courses and research at Cornell into an instructional resource that can be widely disseminated. Previously, we developed a program for teaching robotics to K-12 students using soft materials that resulted in a peer-reviewed publication: Air-Powered Soft Robots for K-12 Classrooms.

RECENT NEWS

May 11, 2016

Ilse passes her A-exam. Congratulations, Ilse!

April 29, 2016

Bryan passes his A-exam. Congratulations, Bryan!

April 29, 2016

Shuo defends his master's thesis. Congratulations, Shuo!

March 4, 2016

Highly stretchable electroluminescent skin for tactile sensing and optical signaling published in Science. Congratulations to Chris, Bryan, Shuo, and Sanlin.

February 12, 2016

'Morphing Metal and Elastomer Bicontinuous Foams for Reversible Stiffness, Shape Memory, and Self-Healing Soft Machines' published in Advanced Materials. Congratulations Ilse!

December 18, 2015

Ben passes his A-exam. Congratulations, Ben!

December 17, 2015

Chris passes his A-exam. Congratulations, Chris!

October 20, 2015

Shepherd Lab is awarded the SURP grant from NASA to work on 3d printing of low-RMS SiC mirrors in collaboration with JPL.

October 7, 2015

The Shepherd Lab wins the 2015 Soft Robotics Design Competition for its Soft Wheel Robot.

October 2, 2015

Ben's work on poroelastic foam actuators covered in Popular Science, New Scientist, Newsweek, the Cornell Chronicle, and Medical Express.

October 1, 2015

'3D printing antagonistic systems of artificial muscle using projection stereolithography' published in Biomimetics and Bioinspiration. Congratulations Bryan Peele!

September 28, 2015

Chris' book chapter entitled '3D Bioprinting Technologies for Cellular Engineering' published in Springer.

September 25, 2015

'Integrated soft sensors and elastomeric actuators for tactile machines with kinesthetic sense' featured on the cover of Extreme Mechanics Letters. Congratulations Sanlin Robinson!

September 19, 2015

'Poroelastic Foams for Simple Fabrication of Complex Soft Robots' featured on the cover of Advanced Materials. Congratulations Ben Mac Murray!

September 19, 2015

'Direct Ink Writing of Silicon Carbide for Microwave Optics' featured on the cover of Advanced Engineering Materials. Congratulations Chris Larson! Click here to see Materials Views article.

August 25, 2015

TJ passes his A-Exam. Congratulations TJ!

July 20, 2015

Professor Shepherd wins the Philosophical Life Raft Debate at Cornell University. Congratulations Rob!

June 7, 2015

The Shepherd Lab receives Engaged Learning & Research Fellowship grant.

June 15, 2015

Huichan passes her A-exam. Congratulations!

June 4, 2015

The Shepherd Lab receives grant from the Army Research Office (ARO).

May 17, 2015

The Shepherd Lab receives Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

May 15, 2015

'Scalable manufacturing of high force wearable soft actuators' published in Extreme Mechanics Letters. Congratulations Huichan!

January 17, 2015

Ilse passes her Q-exam. Congratulations!

November 27, 2014

Professor Shepherd receives the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator Award for his work on “Co-Continuous Metal-Elastomer Foam Actuators for Morphing MAVs.” Press Release

May 15, 2014

Bryan passes his Q-exam. Congratulations!

May 15, 2014

Ben passes his Q-exam. Congratulations!

April 15, 2014

Professor Shepherd receives the Young Alumnus Award for Material Science from the University of Illinois.

April 15, 2014

Ilse awarded the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

April 15, 2014

Bryan awarded the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

February 5, 2014

Professor Shepherd receives the 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award.

Jan 16, 2014

Chris passes his Q-exam. Congratulations!

May 7, 2013

Huichan passes her Q-exam. Congratulations!

Research

The Shepherd Lab is focused on the advancement of soft robotics systems. This includes walking robots, soft electronic skins that sense touch and shape in response to mechanical stimuli, and biomimetic actuators that mimic the function and movements of natural organs, such as the heart. We achieve this by coupling bio-inspired design with advanced fabrication methods (e.g., 3d printing, soft lithography, and rotational molding).

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Sensors & Displays

We develop electronic sensors and visual displays from purely soft materials (elastomers, hydrogel, embedded hard components) for soft robotics, prosthetics, and wearable devices.

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Bio-inspired Machines

Our primary research thrust is the design, fabrication, and optimization of soft actuating systems for applications in robotics and human interface and assistive technologies.

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Advanced Manufacturing

We develop advanced methods based on direct ink writing, digital mask projection stereolithography, conformal lithographyTM, and rotational molding to fabricate soft robots, wearable devices, displays, and sensors.

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Media & Press

Engineers develop robotic, self-powered ‘smart skin’

RT America press

Heart-like foam actuator that can pump fluid

Covered in Popular Science, the New Scientist, and Newsweek

A multigait soft robot that can walk, crawl, and traverse obstacles

Covered in The Huffington Post

Soft-Robotic Rover with Electrodynamic Power Scavenging

NASA Press Release

Prof. Shepherd wins the 2015 Cornell Life Raft Debate


Selected Publications

Full list
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Highly stretchable electroluminescent skin for tactile sensing and optical signaling.

Science (2016)
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Morphing Metal and Elastomer Bicontinuous Foams for Reversible Stiffness, Shape Memory, and Self-Healing Soft Machines

Advanced Materials (2016)
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Poroelastic Foams for Simple Fabrication of Complex Soft Robots

Advanced Materials (2015)
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Direct Ink Writing of Silicon Carbide for Microwave Optics

Advanced Eng. Materials (2015)
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Integrated soft sensors and elastomeric actuators for tactile machines with kinesthetic sense.

Extreme Mechanics Letters (2015)
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Scalable manufacturing of high force wearable soft actuators

Extreme Mechanics Letters (2015)
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Camouflage and Display for Soft Machines

Science (2012)
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Soft Robotics for Chemists

Angewandte Chemie-Int. Ed. (2012)
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Multigait Soft Robot

PNAS (2011)

Our Team

Group members & alumni
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Rob Shepherd

Assistant Professor
Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

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James Pikul

Postdoctoral Fellow
PhD: University of Illinois (2015)

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Ben MacMurray

PhD Candidate
Materials Science & Engineering

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Huichan Zhao

PhD Candidate
Mechanical Engineering

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Sanlin Robinson

PhD Student
Materials Science & Engineering
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Thomas Wallin

PhD Candidate
Materials Science & Engineering

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Shuo Li

M.S. Candidate
Materials Science & Engineering

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Bryan Peele

PhD Candidate
Mechanical Engineering

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Ilse Van Meerbeek

PhD Candidate
Mechanical Engineering

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Chris Larson

PhD Candidate
Mechanical Engineering

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Kevin O'Brien

PhD Student
Mechanical Engineering

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Kevin Kruemp

B.S. Candidate
Mechanical Engineering

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Eric Simeonoglou

MEng Candidate
Mechanical Engineering

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Wanying Li

M.S. Candidate
Materials Science & Engineering