Welcome to Creative Soft Robotics, a brand-new IDeATe course for Spring 2021. In this experimental seminar we will read current academic literature on soft robotics and art, then apply research techniques to making innovative soft kinetic sculpture. Our experiments will begin with casting silicone rubber in 3D-printed molds with embedded motor-driven tendons. This course is exploratory in nature and much of it will evolve as we go.
This is the first IDeATe ‘Special Topics’ course, meant for trying out one-of-a-kind topics and approaches. This course is geared toward highly autonomous students willing to explore the frontier of research. It will be reading-heavy and involve immersion in the raw discourse of an emerging discipline. Students will practice techniques for evaluating journal articles and articulating foundational research questions. We will review and critique kinetic artworks made with soft materials. Through this process we will identify cutting edge techniques to inspire new artwork.
As your instructor, I bring a wide variety of robotics and art experience. Much of soft robotics is new to me as well, so we will navigate the literature together and collectively identify realizable techniques. Other potentially feasible approaches for soft sculpture actuation and sensing include high-pressure pneumatic actuation, embedding conductive liquids for distributed sensing, incorporating rigid armatures, or closed-chamber inflatables. Together we can work out which approaches might work within our means and put them to creative uses.