Announcing the Winners of the 2017 Annual Soft Robotics Competitions



The Soft Robotics Toolkit design and research competitions are an annual event aimed at engaging and growing the soft robotics research community. To date, 500+ participants from over 250 teams competed for prizes, submitting a detailed account of the design, fabrication, modeling and testing of the component or system they create using an online wiki platform. The best projects, featuring the most detailed design documentation and new research ideas are added to the site as permanent features to the Toolkit. Submissions at every level of the competition add value to the Toolkit content as a resource for other students and researchers to build upon. Submissions for this year included foam-based actuators, 3D printed embedded circuits molded within a soft robotic hand, and even edible actuators! Our judges, professionals and researchers within their field, reviewed the entries and after much deliberation have made their final decision in each category aimed at researchers, students, and hobbyists.

The first category, the prize for contribution to soft robotics research, required a significant contribution to research in the field of soft robotics through published work. The remaining categories, the college-level and high school design competitions, required the use of some material on the Toolkit site as inspiration to build off of in a new and exciting way. Each category required the teams to design, document and showcase their novel, innovative and exciting ideas. Teams from diverse backgrounds and skill sets joined the competition to display their best ideas from all areas of expertise.

Our judging panel, made up of experts in their fields and even previous competition participants, expertly deliberated the finalist for each category, weighing the novelty of the idea, the quality of documentation and the feasibility of implementation. Their selection of the winners are detailed below.

Prize for Contributions in Soft Robotics Research


Foam-Based Soft Actuators (Organic Robotics Lab, Cornell University)

Foam-Based Soft Actuators were developed out of the Organic Robotics Laboratory at Cornell University. These actuators are made using open celled elastomer foam and sealed with non porous elastomer allowing them to take on novel shapes and configurations. The fabrication process to create the porous elastomer foams involve lost salt casting that allows the salt to create pneumatic channels in the elastomer for inflation. Read more>> 

Runner up

HPN Manipulator (Multi-Agent System Lab, University of Science and Technology of China)

HPN Manipulator was inspired by the honeycomb, a strong structure with high compression properties, and relatively large load bearing capabilities. By integrating a series of pneumatic networks within the honeycomb structure the HPN Manipulator is able to move within many degrees of freedom and exhibits a high load bearing capacity. Read more>>

Runner up

3D printing soft gripper stiffened by passive particle jamming (University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

3D Printed Gripper Stiffened by Passive Particle Jamming is a actuator combining pneumatic and passive particle jamming to achieve a higher stiffness and load bearing capabilities as well as simplify the process for co-molding these two control categories in a single actuator. Read more>>


Soft Robotics Design Competitions

College Winner

3D Printing Assisted Fabrication of Soft Robotic Hand with Embedded Soft Electronic Circuits (MIT SAMs Lab, Korea University)

Using 3D printing to print a soft circuit that could be embedded into the elastomer, this hand co-molds a circuit for an LED array as well as the pneumatic channels for control of the hand's movement. The hand is a proof-of-concept for other soft circuits to be embedded into other soft robots in the future. Read more>> 

College Runner up:

B-Robot (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

B-Robot, inspired by the rolling robots of Star Wars, is a sphere controlled by the shift in weight within the center of mass within the body of the robot. Using DEAs the electrical signal causes the corresponding DEA to contract and cause the rolling motion of the robot. Read more>> 

High School Winner

Food for Thought - Edible Actuators (The Haverford School, PA)

The need for soft robots largely comes from a need for human compatible robots, taking this a step further this team created edible robots as a proof-of-concept for soft robots to be used in applications within the human body. Using traditional gummy candies and 3D printed molds of actuators like Pneunets and soft grippers, this team successfully made pneumatically actuated gummy candies. Read more>>

High School Runner Up

Soft Robot Prosthetic Control (Cheonan Jungang High School, South Korea)

Soft Robotic Prosthetic Control team presented a method for control of soft robotic hand prosthesis. When a limb is removed or damaged  the tendons may have the potential be salvaged and can be used to signal actuators to activate. This team, using the tendons in the arm as example, created a wireless band to signal the hand to open and close 

Honorable Mentions

Integrating Fibers in Robotics Using Automation (University of Louisville) 

Modeling and Design Tool for Soft Pneumatic Actuators (Reconfigurable Robotics Laboratory at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL))


Expert Judging Panel

Emir Vela
Professor Department of Biomedical Engineering 
Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia - UPCH
Personal Profile

Dr. Emir Vela is currently a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia - UPCH, Peru as well as laboratory lead for the Micro & Biorobotics, and the areas of ​​Biomechanical, BioRobotic and Rehabilitation of UPCH. With a diverse range of academic interest his work has included research in the field of micro-robotics, bio-robotics, applications for microfluidic devices, design and manufacturing of sensors and actuators, as well as automatic control. Dr. Vela has also participated in research in the field of micro robotics and opto-metronics in France, as well as in design and manufacture of bio-sensors and micro actuators in France and Switzerland.


Jonathan Rossiter
Professor of Robotics, Head of the Soft Robotics group
Bristol Robotics Laboratory
Personal Profile

Prof. Jonathan Rossiter is currently a Professor of Robotics at the University of Bristol and EPSRC Research Fellow as well as founder and head of the Soft Robotics Group at Bristol Robotics Laboratory. His research interests are in future robotics, especially the emerging fields of soft robotics and smart materials. He has held previous experience at The Royal Society and as a JSPS Research Fellow and has also developed new technologies including biodegradable robots, natural affective touch, camouflage smart skins, shape-fixing composites, and multi-degree-of-freedom soft actuators. Prof. Rossiter has also been awarded over £17 million in research funding and has published over 130 peer-reviewed articles, patents and commercial licensing.


Eoin O'Cearbhaill
Lecturer/Assistant Professor in Bioengineering
University College Dublin
UCD Medical Device Design Group

Dr. O'Cearbhaill obtained his BE (Biomedical) and PhD from NUI-Galway. His doctorate focused on applying mechanical stimulation to MSCs for vascular tissue engineering applications. Subsequently, he worked for Veryan Medical, before joining Creganna-Tactx, where he worked in both manufacturing and design service roles, helping to establish their Specialty Needles Division in Marlborough, MA. Prior to joining UCD, Dr. O'Cearbhaill was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Medical School (Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology Division; Dept. of Medicine, Brigham & Women's Hospital), where his research focused on the conception and development of medical devices and the delivery of next generation therapeutics in the laboratory of Prof. Jeffrey Karp. Dr O'Cearbhaill's interests include medical device innovation, design and commercialization (including minimally invasive devices and delivery systems), cell biomechanics, bioreactor design & tissue engineering, organ-on-chip and lab-on-a-chip systems.


Panagiotis Polygerinos
Assistant Professor
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Arizona State University
Personal Profile

Prof. Polygerinos currently an assistant professor in the school of engineering at the Arizona State University Prof. Polygerinos research focuses on devices that have significant potential to improve patient care and human activity. As a Ph.D. candidate in the Centre for Robotics Research at King’s College London, Panagiotis designed, developed and evaluated miniature MRI compatible sensors for cardiac catheters under Prof. K. Althoefer. In 2012, he joined as a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Biodesign Lab with focus on soft robotic systems and wearable devices for people with upper extremity disabilities under Prof. C. Walsh and in collaboration with the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. He continued his research as a Wyss Postdoctoral Fellow of Technology Development and in collaboration with the Biodesign team developed new wearable assistive and medical technologies before going on to Arizona State University.


Kevin Galloway
Director of Making, Assistant Research Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Vanderbilt University
Personal Profile

Through numerous interdisciplinary projects and collaborations, Dr. Galloway has built a multidisciplinary background that has grown to include mechanical design, materials science, advanced manufacturing, bioinspired design, human-centered design, robotics and medical devices. His current research interests include new approaches to design, rapid prototyping from the micro- to the macro-scale, active soft materials, and the manufacture and control of wearable robotic devices. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Kevin worked closely with the Harvard Microrobotics Lab led by Prof. Rob Wood and the Harvard Biodesign Lab led by Prof. Conor Walsh to build an internationally recognized soft robotics platform and has held several PI/Co-PI roles.


Ellen Roche
Assistant Professor, MechE and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Personal Profile

Dr. Roche received her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from NUIGalway, and went on to work in the medical device industry (Mednova, Abbott Vascular and Medtronic) before receiving her MSc in Bioengineering from Trinity College Dublin. She completed her PhD at Harvard University under the guidance of Professor David Mooney in the Mooney Lab and Professor Conor Walsh in the Harvard Biodesign Lab. To date her research has focused on new approaches to cardiac device design as well as employing biomaterials to improve cell delivery and retention to the heart.


Iain Anderson
Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Science
Group Leader for the Biomimetics Laboratory of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute
The University of Aukland
Personal Proflile

Iain Anderson is Group Leader for the Biomimetics Laboratory of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Science. After working as a product designer, engineer and research scientist in industry, Dr. Anderson returned in 2000 to the Department of Engineering Science as a staff member. He was one of the founding members of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute and the Biomimetics Laboratory which is focused on the control and self-sensing of artificial muscles and artificial muscle energy harvesting. In 2015, Dr. Anderson and his graduate students founded the Biomimetics Laboratory. The lab has a strong focus on dielectric elastomer artificial muscles with particular expertise in optimising the technology for applications such as wearable sensors and power generators. These stretchable soft capacitive sensors, perfect for measuring human body motion, were later commercialized by Dr. Anderson and two of his former students, creating StretchSense Ltd.


Jian Zhu 
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
National University of Singapore
Personal Profile

Dr. Jian Zhu is an assistant professor at the department of Mechanical Engineering, NUS. Before moving to Singapore, Dr. Zhu worked on climbing robots at City University of Hong Kong in 2002, which can take the place of human beings to clean the windows of the high-rise buildings. Dr. Zhu also worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University after receiving a Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering at University of Alberta, Canada in 2008. There he was awarded a NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. His current research interests lie in Soft Robots, Soft Active Materials, and Smart Materials and Structures.




See Entries from Previous Competitions

2015comp_icon-01.png 2016comp_icon-01.png