Toolkit Devlopment

The Soft Robotics Toolkit grew out of research conducted at Harvard University and Trinity College Dublin which focused on developing better instructional kits for hands-on design courses (Dónal P. Holland et al. 2014). The Toolkit was initially developed in the Harvard Biodesign Lab through a user-centred design approach to understanding the needs of student designers in ES227 Medical Device Design, a project-based mechanical design course in which teams of undergraduate and graduate students work with clinicians to develop novel medical devices. A soft robotics focus was added to the course in order to connect student projects with the cutting-edge robotics research being conducted at Harvard, exposing the students to the latest research findings and giving them the chance to participate in advanced technology development.

This change to the course was piloted in 2013, with the addition of instructional labs on soft actuator fabrication and an early prototype of a fluidic control board. However, it soon became clear that the student teams needed more detailed information to support the development of their soft robotic devices. The teaching team took note of the information the students were seeking out and decided to create a more comprehensive resource that future students could use to learn how to design, fabricate, model, and test their own soft robotic devices. Thus, the Soft Robotics Toolkit was born.

Since then, the Toolkit has been steadily growing through testing and feedback, not just in the number of soft robotic components that are documented on the site (the first pilot version had just 3) but in the quality of the content. This has been supported by contributions from a range of research groups with assistance from the Toolkit development team. Pilot tests were conducted with non-scientists to ensure that the information is as clear as possible, and the Toolkit was successfully used by students in the U.S. and India to build soft robotic medical devices of their own. And it’s not just students – soft robotics researchers across the world have also been interacting with the Toolkit, both contributing material and using content from it to further their own work (Holland et al. 2018).


We hope to continue to improve and expand the Toolkit with the help of other soft robotics researchers worldwide. The goal is for the Soft Robotics Toolkit to be a useful shared resource that can help advance the field, and for this to happen we need your help! Support the Toolkit, send us feedback, or contribute your work; we look forward to hearing from you.


Current Toolkit Development Team

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Dónal Holland
Assistant Professor in Biomechanics
University College Dublin
Conor J. Walsh
Associate Professor of Mechanical
and Biomedical Engineering at
Harvard School of Engineering
and Applied Sciences 
Max Herman
Staff Software Developer
Harvard School of Engineering and

Applied Sciences
Sara Berndt
Research Fellow
Harvard School of Engineering and

Applied Sciences

Past Toolkit Development Team

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Evelyn J. Park
Fellow in Material Science and Mechanical Engineering
Harvard School of Engineering and
Applied Sciences
Panagiotis Polygerinos
Technology Development Fellow
Wyss Institute for Biologically
Inspired Engineering
at Harvard
Jeffrey Peisner
Research Fellow
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired

Engineering at Harvard
Colette Abah
Research Fellow
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
at Harvard


The aim for the Soft Robotics Toolkit is to provide a platform for designers, researchers, and students to share information and resources. We want to build a community around the website and to support people in contributing content. If you would like to add anything to the site, please click the link below to get in touch. We will follow up to guide you through the submission process and work with you to add your content to the site.

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The Soft Robotics Toolkit is funded in large part through grants and generous donations. Support from private and public parties help the toolkit to grow and continue providing content for the advancement of the Soft Robotics field. Our efforts to share this resource are made possible by the following supporters. If you would like to be a supporter of the Toolkit, please click the link below.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1526327.






D. P. Holland, S. Berndt, M. Herman, C. Walsh, "Growing the Soft Robotics Community Through Knowledge-Sharing Initiatives," Soft Robotics, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 119-121, 2018.



D. P. Holland, et al., "The Soft Robotics Toolkit: Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles to the Wide Dissemination of Soft-Robotic Hardware," IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, Special Issue on Open Source and Widely Disseminated Robot Hardware, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 57-64, 2017. 



D. P. Holland, G. J. Bennett, G. M. Whitesides, R. J. Wood, and C. J. Walsh, “The 2015 Soft Robotics Competition,” IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 25-27, 2016.



E. J. Park, D. Holland, P. Polygerinos, G. J. Bennett, and C. J. Walsh, “Shared Design Tools to Support Research and Development in Soft Robotics,” Advances in Soft Robotics Workshop, in conjunction with the 2014 Robotics: Science and Systems Conference. 2014.

D. Holland, E. J. Park, P. Polygerinos, G. J. Bennett, and C. J. Walsh, “The Soft Robotics Toolkit: Shared Resources for Research and Design,” Soft Robotics, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 224-230, 2014.

D. Holland, E. J. Park, P. Polygerinos, G. J. Bennett, and C. J. Walsh, “Shared Online Resources to Support On-Demand Design and Fabrication of Soft Robotic Devices,” RobotMakers: The future of digital rapid design and fabrication of robots (RoMa), in conjunction with the 2014 Robotics: Science and Systems Conference. 2014.