Our research area is in a new field: soft-material robotics. In contrast to rigid robotics, robots made of soft material should bend, wrinkle, twist, fold and stretch in a manner similar to that of living organisms such as the octopus. Robots with these capabilities hold great promise in a wide range of applications.

Our research addresses the biggest challenge in soft robotics: controlling soft materials. Soft materials are difficult to control because of intrinsic non-linear behavior.

Our research goal is to is investigate how soft-bodied animals control their locomotion through neuromechanics (tight coupling of neural and mechanical processes). We base our investigation on the soft-bodied animal, the Manduca sexta caterpillar. We plan to utilize evolutionary algorithms, a class of adaptive heuristic search algorithms premised on the evolutionary ideas of natural selection and genetics, in our investigation.


This project is sponsored by an MRO-W (Multidisciplinary Research Opportunities for Women) grant from CRA-W (Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research).

The MRO-W grant promotes multidisciplinary research opportunities for women with the goal of engaging women undergraduates in computer science more fully in the research process by allowing them to investigate applications of computer science to other areas and to serve as a catalyst for forming new multidisciplinary partnerships with cyberinfrastructure expertise.


Rieffel, J., Saunders, F., Nadimpalli, S., Zhou, H., Hassoun, S., Rife, J. and Trimmer, B. "Evolving Soft Robotic Locomotion in PhysX". Proceedings of the 2009 Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO). [PDF]