Harvard University: SEA-STAR Prototype

Research Experience for Undergraduates, Summer 2017

I worked with a PhD student at the Harvard Microrobotics Lab to develop actuators for an underwater, autonomous robot. The purpose of the project was to design feet that can cling to any surface underwater, including ship hulls, as well as gently manipulate samples. Inspired by a sea-star’s tube feet, the basic design is a silicone tube with a deformable membrane that extends with positive pressure and retracts with negative pressure (vacuum). I iterated through various designs of tube feet and studied how they performed under various pressures, recording the minimum pressure to fully extend. The goal was to find a design requiring minimal actuation pressure while maximizing the number of feet that can fit in a small area. In addition to characterizing tube feet designs, we also considered how the tube feet will move the robot. I developed small robots to demonstrate the resulting actuation as seen in this video. I co-authored a paper publishing the results of this research in IEEE Robotics Automation and Letters.