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Learning by nature how to build soft robots

  • Date January 11, 2016
  • Hour 3 pm
  • Room GSSI Main Lecture Hall
  • Speaker Barbara Mazzolai (Center for Micro-BioRobotics, IIT - Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia)

ABSTRACT

Robots today are expected to operate in a variety of scenarios, being able to cope with uncertain situations and to react quickly to changes in the environment. In this scenario a strong relationship between nature and technology plays a major role, with the winning approach of evaluating natural systems to abstract principles for new designs. Bioinspired soft robotics is a worldwide known paradigm to develop new solutions for science and technology, giving way to a series of innovative robotic solutions assisting and supporting today’s society. A bioinspired approach needs a deep understanding of the selected biological models in order to extract the key features relevant for designing robotic systems able to imitate the biological counterpart in some specific functions. Such biological principles traditionally originate from animal models for robots that can walk, swim, crawl, or fly. Recently, engineers, material and computer scientists have also increased their interest in plants, as a new model for developing robots and ICT solutions. In this talk I will present some scientific and technological challenges coming from both animals and plants. In the animal paradigm a function is often related to an organ or compartment. Instead plants are networked, decentralized, modular, redundant, and resilient. Plants are able to move, control, sense, but they do in a different way with respect animals or other living beings. I will compare ideas, biological features, and technological translations coming from the two Kingdoms and related to areas of interest in robotics: movement, sensing and control.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Barbara Mazzolai received her MSc in Biology at the University of Pisa (Italy) in 1995 and her Ph.D. in Microsystems Engineering at the University of Rome Tor Vergata.

From 1994 to 1998 she worked at the Institute of Biophysics of the National Research Council in Pisa on the study of biogeochemical cycle of heavy metal pollutants and their impact on environment and human health. In 1998 she obtained an International Master Degree in Eco-Management and Audit Schemes at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna (SSSA) in Pisa. From February 1999 until June 2004 she had a position at the Center for Research in Microengineering (CRIM Lab, now the BioRobotics Institute) of SSSA as Research Assistant and, from July 2004 to October 2009, as Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering at SSSA. She was co-founder of the Research Centre on Sea Technologies and Marine Robotics of SSSA in Livorno.

From November 2009 to February 2011 she was Team Leader at the Center for Micro-BioRobotics of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT). As of February 16, 2011 she is Coordinator of the Center. Since July 16th, 2012, she is Deputy Director for the Supervision and Organization of IIT Centers Network.

In 2010 she received the "Marisa Bellisario" Award for her scientific and management activities in the EU DustBot project for improving the urban hygiene and the quality of life of citizens. In 2013 she was awarded the Medal of the Senate of the Italian Republic for her scientific activities in biomimetics and biorobotics.

Her current scientific activity focuses on bioinspired soft robotics. The researches aim at designing and developing new robotic solutions and advanced components taking inspiration from nature. The principal biological models of her interest are plants and soft animals, with the aim to design and develop new bioinspired technologies and robotic solutions and to increase the knowledge of the biological system used as models. She has a long experience as Project Manager of European Projects in these fields and she is the Coordinator of the PLANTOID FET-Open European Project. She has also been member of panels of the European Commission within the Seventh Frame Program in the field of Robotics and ICT, and of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology in the field of Environment and Health.

She is Associate Editor for the Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics, and for the Journal of Frontiers in Bionics and Biomimetics. She is Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Soft Robotics, and of the of the International Journal Applied Bionics and Biomechanics. She is member of the IEEE, and of the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society and of the Robotics and Automation Society.

 

For more information on the Center for Micro-BioRobotics of the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, please visit mbr.iit.it.