SystemX BONUS lecture: Microrobots as the Future of Tools: Designing Effective Platforms and Collaborative Swarms

Microrobots as the Future of Tools: Designing Effective Platforms and Collaborative Swarms
Friday, February 1, 2019 - 2:00pm
Allen 101X
Dr. Daniel Drew (Stanford)
Abstract / Description: 

In the near future, swarms of millimeter scale robots will be vital and common tools in industrial, commercial, and personal settings. With applications ranging from distributed chemical sensing to tangible 3D interfaces, providing mobility platforms to low-power sensing and actuation nodes will push us that much closer to the dream of ubiquitous computing. In this talk I will present my efforts to develop a flying microrobot, the "ionocraft", which uses atmospheric ion thrusters to move completely silently and with no mechanical moving parts. Spanning from development of novel MEMS actuators to incorporation of onboard sensor packages for control, I will discuss system design at the resource-constrained edge of robotics. Even given a working mobility platform, a bevy of interdisciplinary challenges remain to make microrobots useful tools; I will further discuss strategies for enabling future autonomous swarm deployments as well as for studying human-robot interaction outside the context of traditional social robotics.


Daniel Drew received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from UC Berkeley under the supervision of Professor Kris Pister. His research focused on the design and fabrication of centimeter-scale robotic systems and human-computer interaction in the context of novel debugging and development tools. He recently began as a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering, working with Professor Sean Follmer on human-swarm interaction and swarm platform development. Daniel received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship in 2013 and an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in 2019.