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! 



Dr. Kyujin Cho

Dr. Kyujin Cho is an Assistant Professor in the School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at Seoul National University. His research interests are in biologically inspired robotics, micro machining, and smart actuators. Dr. Cho received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from Seoul National University in 2002, and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2007.


Dr. Fumiya Iida

Dr. Fumiya Iida is a SNF professor for bio-inspired robotics at ETH Zurich. His research interest includes biologically inspired robotics, embodied artificial intelligence, and biomechanics, where he was involved in a number of research projects related to dynamic legged locomotion, navigation of autonomous robots, and human-machine interactions. Dr. Iida received his bachelor and master degrees in mechanical engineering at Tokyo University of Science in 1999 and Dr. sc. nat. in Informatics at the University of Zurich in 2006.


Dr. Cecilia Laschi

Dr. Cecilia Laschi is a professor of Biorocotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, Italy. She has been investigated bioinspired solutions for personal and service robotics including bioinspired sensory-motor control schemes for humanoid robotics as well as designing robotic replicas that can fully explain the biological working principles and mechanisms of animal and vegetal systems. Dr. Laschi received her Master’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of Pisa in 1993 as well as a Ph. D. in Robotics from the University of Genova, Italy, in 1998.


Dr. Carmel Majidi

Dr. Carmel Majidi is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on unique combinations of rapid prototyping, soft-lithography microfabrication, and theoretical insights from solid mechanics that have led to innovations in liquid-embedded elastomer electronics (LE3) for stretchable sensors, circuits, and wearable computing. Dr. Majidi received a B.S. from Cornell University in 2001, an M.S. from the University of California at Berkeley 2004, as well as a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 2007.


Dr. Cagdas Onal

Dr. Cagdas Onal is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He focuses on building unconventional, bio-inspired flexible systems and components to push the envelope in robotics research. Dr. Onal has a B.S. and M.S. degree from Sabanci University in 2003 and 2005 and a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 2009.


Dr. Jamie Paik

Dr. Jaime Paik is an Assistant Professor at the EPFL, in the Institute of Mechanical Engineering. During a post-doc at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, she designed and built a surgical instrument, the JAiMY, which is used for suturing in laparoscopic surgery. Dr. Paik received her BS and MS degrees from the University of British Columbia (Canada) and her PhD at Seoul National University (South Korea).


Dr. Robert Shepherd

Dr. Robert Shepherd is an Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. His research focuses on developing disruptive manufacturing technologies (e.g., 3D printing, replica molding, microfluidics, etc.) and functional materials to enable new devices and user experiences. Dr. Shepherd received his B.S. (2002) and Ph.D. (2010) in Material Science at the University of Illinois.


Dr. Adam A. Stokes

Dr. Adam Stokes is a lecturer in the Institute for Micro and Nano Systems (IMNS) and the Institute for Bioengineering (IBioE), at The University of Edinburgh. His research interests include: robotics, physical chemistry, electrical engineering, materials science, nanotechnology, optics, proteomics, and cell biology. Dr. Stokes has a BEng in Electronics and Electrical Engineering from The University of Edinburgh in 2006, a MSc in Biomedical Science from The University of Glasgow in 2007 and a PhD in Chemistry/Engineering from The University of Edinburgh in 2010.


Simon DiMaio
Research and Advanced Product Development Lead
Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

Simon DiMaio leads Research and Advanced Product Development teams at Intuitive Surgical, Inc. (Sunnyvale, California), makers of the da Vinci Surgical System – a telerobotic system for minimally-invasive surgery. Dr. DiMaio holds a Ph.D. in robotics and control systems from the University of British Columbia, Canada, where he explored haptics and teleoperation technologies, and then went on to develop some of the very first needle insertion models and novel robotic needle steering methods for medical applications.


Joe Domic
Materials Specialist

Joe Domic is a materials specialist and technical manager at Smooth-On, a leading manufacturer of liquid silicones, urethanes and epoxies. He studied physics and economics at Rutgers University, and has over 20 years experience in the fields of mold making, casting, engineering and organic chemistry. Mr. Domic has been instrumental in developing new techniques and materials for the composites and prototyping industries, and has lectured across North America, Europe and Asia at leading design institutions.


Roy Kornbluh
Principal Research Engineer
SRI International

Roy Kornbluh is a Principal Research Engineer in SRI International’s Robotics Laboratory with more than 25 years of experience contributing and leading a wide variety of projects to develop new electromechanical transducers for walking, crawling and flying robots as well as other systems. Mr. Kornbluh has an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University.


Paul Maeder
Co-founder & General Partner
Highland Capital Partners

Paul Maeder is a founding partner of Highland Capital Partners with over 30 years of experience in venture capital while serving as a director of many public and private companies. Mr. Maeder has a B.S.E in Aerospace and Mechanical Sciences from Princeton University, an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University as well as an M.B.A. with Distinction from Harvard Business School.



Carl Vause
Chief Executive Officer
Soft Robotics, Inc.

Carl Vause is CEO of Soft Robotics Inc. with a wealth of experience holding a variety of senior positions in technology and medical device companies, most recently Vice President of Marketing at OmniGuide Surgical. Mr. Vause holds a M.B.A from London Business School and B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute.


Peter Whitney
Associate Research Scientist
Disney Research Pittsburgh

Peter Whitney is an Associate Research Scientist at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, PA, where he works on developing interactive robots, in particular robots which can operate in direct physical contact with people. Dr. Whitney holds a PhD from Harvard University, where he researched manufacturing and assembly methods for millimeter-scale microrobots.


See Entries from Previous Competitions


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