Soft Robotics Design Competition 2015


We want YOU to do something cool with soft robotics! Spend 4 months working with your team to design a novel device which incorporates some of the soft robotic components documented on the Soft Robotics Toolkit website. Example projects might include:

  • Wearable robotic systems to assist or augment human performance
  • Robots capable of manipulating delicate objects
  • Robots capable of novel forms of locomotion
  • Improved control systems for soft robotics
  • Improving an existing device by incorporating soft components

Your design may be entirely “soft,” or may combine traditional rigid robotic elements with soft components. The only limitations (besides your imagination) are that:

  1. The design must make use of at least one component technology from the Soft Robotics Toolkit website
  2. The design must be novel. You may not submit a project that was completed prior to the beginning of the competition (February 2015).*

(*If you have previously completed a research project related to soft robotics, please see the 2015 Prize for Contributions in Soft Robotics.)


The best projects will be featured on the soft robotics toolkit website. In addition, there will be a cash prize awarded to the best team, as well as a few smaller cash prizes for runners up, totaling $5,000 in prize money!

How to Enter

You must document your team's project using a provided "wiki". Competition entries will be judged based on the wiki pages only! Your team's wiki will remain private while the competition is in progress, but will be shared publicly after results have been announced. At a minimum, your team's wiki must include the following sections:

  1. A Background section describing the problem you are trying to solve;
  2. A Design section describing your solution, its strengths and weaknesses, as well as the rationale for your design decisions;
  3. A Fabrication section documenting how you built your final prototype; and
  4. A Testing section that demonstrates the performance of your final prototype.

Images and videos of you building your project and your project in action are strongly recommended!

Registration is now CLOSED! The deadline for registering for this year's competition has passed. Thank you and good luck to all the teams competing!

Important dates

  • December 1st 2014: Registration opens.
  • February 1st 2015: Registered teams' assigned project wikis released.
  • May 16th 2015: Project title and description due.
  • June 16th 2015: Team wikis are frozen. Teams will not be allowed to edit their wiki after this date.
  • July 15th August 15th 2015: Winners are announced.


An international panel of expert judges will score each project using the rubric below. Details of the judging panel will be released over the coming months.

Scoring Rubric (50 points total)

  • Project Idea (20 points)
    • The need: has the team made a strong case that there is a need for their idea? Have they outlined the potential impact of their idea? (5 points)
    • Functional requirements: are the goals of the project clearly defined? Are the criteria for success provided? (5 points)
    • Quality: is the proposed solution interesting and novel? (10 points)

  • Project Implementation (10 points)
    • Prototype: did the team build a working prototype? Does the prototype meet the functional requirements set by the team? (10 points)

  • Project Documentation (20 points):
    • Overall quality: Is the documentation well-written and easy to understand? (5 points)
    • Design: does this section include an overview of the design as well as a discussion of its strengths, weaknesses, and potential modifications? (5 points)
    • Fabrication: does this section describe the procedure used to build the prototype? Does it include useful visual aids? (5 points)
    • Testing: Does the wiki include a demonstration of the working prototype? Does the wiki describe tests that were done to evaluate the design, and are the results of testing provided? (5 points)

(In the case of a tiebreak, the team with the highest "Project Documentation" score will win.)

2015  Judges:

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.