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While giving my presentation at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium in January, there was a film crew from NASA360 there. They just put together the following 2 minute long video overview of our dynamic tensegrity robotics research, and it is GREAT! Probably the best produced video of our work yet. It is fun too, because they manage to include clips of all the various prototypes we have worked with over the years. It is a fun, fast, watch — Enjoy!

Posted in Presentations, Robots, Tensegrity.

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Funding Opportunities for Dynamic Tensegrity Robotics Research

I’m excited to spread the word about a couple of opportunities for those interested in tensegrity robotics research — a NASA Early Career Fellowship (Grants will be funded up to $200,000 each per year, for as many as three years), a three year Fellowship for Graduate Students, and a summer internship. Please take a look, submit applications, and spread the word to those who might be interested!

Details of all three opportunities below.


NASA Early Career Fellowship:

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking proposals from accredited U.S. universities on behalf of outstanding early-career faculty members who are beginning independent research careers. The grants will sponsor research in specific high-priority areas of interest to America’s space program.

Aligned with NASA’s Space Technology Roadmaps and priorities identified by the National Research Council, the agency has identified topic areas that lend themselves to the early stage innovative approaches U.S. universities can offer for solving tough space technology challenges.

“These research grants will help NASA in the development of new space technologies needed for future science and exploration while also fueling the intellectual innovation engine of our nation, powering new discoveries for years to come,” said James Reuther, deputy associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “Technology drives exploration and these research efforts will help us reach new heights while benefiting Earth right now.”

NASA expects to award approximately six to eight grants this fall. Grants will be funded up to $200,000 each per year, for as many as three years, based on the merit of proposals and availability of funds. Funded research will investigate unique, disruptive or transformational space technologies in areas such as dynamic tensegrity technologies for space science and exploration, high-temperature solar cells, fundamental aerothermodynamic model development and synthetic biology technologies for space exploration.

Dynamic tensegrity-based technologies have the potential to enable more capable and affordable space missions through large, reconfigurable space structures and lightweight, volume efficient landers. Tensegrity, or “tensional integrity,” uses tension and compression in skeleton structures for efficient and economic machine design. The first solicitation topic seeks dynamic tensegrity technologies for in-space, landing and surface operations applications.


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Presenting at 2015 NIAC Symposium

Today I just presented progress on our Tensegrity Planetary Lander at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Symposium. This is a great program which studies advanced technologies which will revolutionize space exploration over the next 10-20 years. There are many amazing technologies being worked on here and wonderful folks to brainstorm with.

My talk starts at the 33 minute mark on the following video, so jump ahead, or enjoy the really cool talk the proceeds mine about how one might capture a spinning astroid using a small tethered space craft.

Posted in Presentations, Robots, Tensegrity.

Tensegrity Robotics Simulator NTRTv1.1 Released!

I am very pleased to announce the second release (NTRTv1.1) of our physics based Tensegrity Simulator!

The most significant new feature is that we have added a new cable class that builds upon our force-accurate elastic cable model, but now also adds contact dynamics. As far as we know, this is one of the only open-source examples of realistic elastic cables with contact dynamics which can also run in real-time. (yes, the underlying Bullet Physics Engine has softbody cables, but they are wildly unrealistic in force propagation). We hope that this will be a contribution to robotics simulation that goes beyond just its role in tensegrity robotics research. For example, they may be of use for simulations of tendon driven actuation. You can see an example of the cable dynamics here:

In this release, we also developed kinematic motor models for increased actuation realism, new sensor features, added PID controllers, added new terrains, did further validation against hardware prototypes, and integrated a neural network library.

We also improved our core infrastructure by improving our build scripts, starting a continuous integration server, added unit tests, integrated JSON for data serialization, and developed a formal scaling framework.

There were many improvements to accuracy and runtime efficiency throughout the system, and many more small changes too numerous to mention.

Finally, we now have a framework to add tutorials, with the first tutorial on how to add more tutorials in place. Look for further documentation to come!

For details on all the improvements and features, please see the ChangeLog.

You can find the tagged release on github, and release specific doxygen documentation.

Please enjoy and spread the word! We hope this tool will be useful for anyone interested in tensegrity structures and robots!

Posted in Robots, Tensegrity.

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