MechSE Master Calendar

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Blending Soft and Rigid for Physical Intelligence in Robotics

Event Type
Mechanical Science and Engineering
4100 Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Building
Feb 29, 2024   4:00 pm  
Dr. Zachary Patterson, Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab
Amy Rumsey
Originating Calendar
MechSE Seminars


Most large animals have a blend of soft and rigid materials in their load-bearing structures. This design principle is largely overlooked by traditional robotics, which favors rigid materials, and by soft robotics, which predominantly uses soft components. Inspired by the natural integration of these materials in the animal kingdom, my research aims to develop robotic systems that combine soft and rigid elements harmoniously, leading to inherent "physical intelligence.” I will begin with an exploration of manipulators that embody this innovative soft-strong paradigm, followed by a discussion on the critical role of advanced control algorithms in harnessing physical intelligence effectively. Next, I will showcase the application of this soft-rigid hybrid approach in creating biomimetic robots, drawing inspiration from marine creatures like sea turtles and echinoderms. These robots serve as versatile experimental platforms, enabling us to explore and elucidate questions in biomechanics and paleobiology that are otherwise challenging to address. I will finally discuss how these diverse categories of robots could revolutionize the interactions of intelligent machines with the environment. 

 About the Speaker

Zach Patterson is a Postdoctoral Associate at the MIT Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab. His research sits at the intersection of robot design, control, and biomimetics with a focus on utilizing soft robotic technologies. Zach received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in 2017 and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2022.

Host: Professor Taher Saif

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