Bio-Inspired Robotics Workshop at ITP Camp

Kari Love and I taught a pair of classes where students explored robotics and bioinspiration through physical prototyping at ITP Camp.

ITP Camp is a 4-week technology-focused crash course covering emerging technologies across the board – from VR, to neural networks, to robotics. At Super-Releaser, Kari and I have been developing workshops to demonstrate the strategies we use to solve problems in the emerging field of soft robotics, and how that brand of integrated cross-disciplinary thinking is useful far beyond our own field.

A heat sealed mylar balloon made by a student in class

We taught two half-day sessions where students learned techniques for fabricating inflatable structures, first testing out static heat sealed mylar balloons, and then extending that exploration to produce pneumatic actuators. The rapid iterations allowed students to develop an intuition for how their finished inflatables would behave without needing a huge run-up covering the theory or physics defining this kind of structure.

In between hands-on prototyping sessions, Kari and I presented a few short lectures, covering bio-inspired design, systematic problem solving approaches, interdisciplinary thinking, and the field of soft robotics.

A camper trimming a mylar prototype before heat sealing

The enrollment topped 100 students for a 25-seat classroom, so ITP asked us to include a second session. We were sincerely impressed by the student’s work and excitement to explore iterative prototyping. We saw a dozen novel actuators and unique inflatables over the course of the sessions. One of the joys of teaching these classes was getting to talk with the students about how the novelty of this technological space means that things the experiment with and explore are super likely to be the first of their kind anyone has ever seen, and that there are no wrong moves when there’s no authority on what the space should look like. It really took the reigns off and empowered them to explore.

You can learn more about what was covered in the course here.