Exercise: Clarifying Research Scope

Both research projects and art projects develop through a series of studies and experiments. A constant challenge is developing a broad narrative while simultaneously identifying the small steps to take along the way. And in all projects, new discoveries may emerge which motivate pivoting into new directions and reformulating the larger objectives.

Much of the research we’ve been reading represents mature results and is the product of many individual experiments. In this class, we only have the time and material resources to carry out small studies, but we can still choose them in light of a larger agenda. The objective of this exercise is practicing this skill of identifying a feasible scope within a larger project idea.


This is a group exercise. Each team will work collaboratively to:

  1. articulate a specific artistic or design project narrative,

  2. identify relevant soft robotics research topics,

  3. describe a specific proof-of-concept experiment.


  1. The first step is identifying a specific, concrete project narrative compatible with the interests of each group member. Your obligation to this idea will be to research related work and design a specific study which supports the overall goal. So it should be artistically and technically plausible, but the grand idea does not need to fit within the resource limitations of the course, only the specific study.

    There are many possible sources:

    • You each may already have a specific idea in mind.

    • You may be inspired by any existing project we’ve reviewed.

    • You may have a question you’d like to resolve.

  2. Write a one-paragraph synopsis of your project idea. A good model would be a gallery statement; please include a brief description of the physical work and a statement of the overall concept or artistic objectives.

  3. Create one or more visual renderings to explain the overall idea.

  4. The second step is identifying a proof-of-concept experiment involving soft robotics which represents a step toward this narrative. Please articulate the question you expect such a study to answer. This could involve testing a material, process, design technique, component, etc., any of the soft robotics results we been exploring.

  5. Write a brief description of the study. Please be sure to identify any particular materials or techniques you’d need to investigate to accomplish the study.

  6. Deliverables: write a short collaboratively-authored blog post with your results and be prepared to make brief comments in class. Please be sure to:

    • include your one-paragraph project synopsis,

    • include supporting graphic material,

    • include your study description,

    • identify any related art or design projects on similar themes,

    • identify one or more technical research papers which address the technological aspects,

    • include the relevant citations.