Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Design Competition

Thank you to all who submitted their work for this year's competitions! The toolkit team has been overwhelmed with the support for the competitions that we launched in December of last year. The contests ran for 6 months, and during this time we had 82 teams participate from over 20 countries around the world! Teams ranged in level from high school students through graduate researchers and even hobbyists working from home. The submissions we received were of extremely high quality in terms of both uniqueness of the project ideas as well as the execution of the prototypes and accompanying documentation.

Everyone who submitted their projects to the competitions should feel proud of the work they did and know that they have in some way helped to advance the soft robotics community. Collaboration is crucial for the growth of the field of soft robotics. We hope that in some way this competition has motivated and inspired those new and old to the field to continue to create and innovate.

We had many amazing submissions for both the design and research competitions, and we sincerely enjoyed learning about all the projects that teams have been working on for months. The judges especially thought that the level of submissions was incredibly high, and made their jobs difficult to distinguish one over the other. Unfortunately, there must be a winner, and after much deliberation the official 2015 winners have been chosen.

2015 Winners

Design Competition

Soft Wheel Robot

Contributions in Research

Smart Braids

The Soft Wheel Robot (Cornell University, NY, USA) utilizes a cylindrical shell with inflatable channels on the exterior to induce a rolling speed of about 6m/min. All features are contained within the robot so that it is not tethered to any power, control, or pneumatic sources.  Smart Braids (University of Michigan, MI, USA) are conductive reinforcing fibers that provide a way of sensing the deformation and force output of fiber-reinforced actuators without any external transducers. They are able to do this by sensing a change in resistance and inductance which corresponds to movement of the braids.

2015 Runners Up

Design Competition

Contributions in Research

MyGlove: Detecting and Controlling Tremor

MyGlove (Olympia High School, WA, USA) is a wearable glove that detects and controls tremors using pneumatic actuators. It also assists with hand movements and grip using servos.

Hot Glue Kit

The Hot Glue Kit (University of Cambridge, England) is a soft robotics toolkit that enables fast prototyping and easy actuation control to help the users build their first soft robot designs, observe and analyze their behavior quickly so that they can understand and improve their robots.

FeTCh Mark 1 Manipulator

FeTCh Mark 1 Manipulator (LILLE 1 University - Science and Technology, France) is a soft manipulator robot that is capable of interacting with delicate objects due to its compliance and stiffness control. It makes use of a hybrid actuation system composted of pneumatic and tendon-based actuators.

Combustion Driven Actuators

Combustion driven actuators (ETH, Switzerland) are a class of soft actuators that use the ignition of combustible mixtures to drive actuation. Instead of applying pressure to inflate channels, the expansion is created directly at the needed spot by igniting an air-methane mixture. The combustion process generates high energy gases which force the soft outer walls of the actuator to expand.

Soft Robotics for Hobby Roboticist

Some of the tools, materials and techniques included in the soft robotics toolkit may be somewhat challenging or expensive for a hobbyist. This project (by a hobbyist in NJ, USA) which consists of a control board and an analog pneumatic hand, aims to make soft robotics accessible to the hobby roboticist by using simpler techniques, common tools and less expensive material whenever possible.

Multi-Module Variable Stiffness Manipulator

The multi-module variable stiffness manipulator (Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Italy) is a bioinspired project that mimics the elongation, omni-directional bending, and stiffness variation capabilities of an octopus tentacle. It does this by assembling individually actuated modules into one braided sheath.

Unleash the Tether: The Development of a Direct Hydraulic Pump-Driven Soft Actuator

Unleash the Tether (Waseda University and University of Tokyo, Japan) presents a novel way to make an actuation system in which the pneumatic or hydraulic power source and all mechanical components are contained within the body of the robot. 

Honorable Mentions

While these teams did not win a prize, we would like to commend them for their unique and interesting projects.

Huggy Bear (Barstow High School, MO , USA)

AirStrap: Actuator Sandal (Maryland Institute College of Art, MD, USA)

Soft Robotics for Kids with LEGO Mindstorms (Hobbyist in USA)

A Synergistic Design Leveraging the Diverse Functionalities of Soft- and Rigid-Bodied Robots (Cornell University, NY, USA)

Soft Barrier: A Shape Changing Insulator for Architecture (New Jersey Institute of Technology, NJ, USA)



The Soft Robotics Toolkit Team would like to thank the Harvard Biodesign Lab, the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering for sponsoring the competition prizes!