Design, Modeling, and Control of Vine Robots for Exploration of Unknown Environments by Margaret Coad

Margaret Coad

Stanford University | Marion Moore Cope

I conduct research on “vine robots”—robots that move through their environment by extending from the tip, similar to how vines grow. These robots have immense potential to be our eyes and hands in spaces too small or dangerous for humans to enter. I successfully used a vine robot that I built to take video inside small tunnels in an archeological site in Peru!

ABSTRACT

Robots have great potential to be our eyes and hands in spaces too small or dangerous for humans to enter. However, most of today’s robots are unsuitable for practical use in these applications. I present my research on a new robotic paradigm—robotic movement via plant-like tip-growth—and its application for exploration of unknown environments. My work centers on soft growing “vine robots,” which lengthen from the tip by turning inside-out of their body material using internal fluid pressure. First, I present my research on design and human-in-the-loop control of vine robots, which allowed me to successfully use them in the field to explore small tunnels in an archeological site in Peru. Then, I present my work on design, modeling, and control to expand the capabilities of these robots in three areas: enabling controlled reversal of growth, applying forces on the environment from the robot tip, and sensing both the environment around the robot and the robot’s own shape.

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