Gilbert Hausmann Award 2019 – Bahar Haghighat
Design, Modeling, and Control Methods for Fluid-Mediated Programmable Self-Assembly of Resource-Constrained Robotic Modules
EPFL thesis n°8599 (2018)
Thesis director: Prof. A. Martinoli
"For her pioneering contributions to the design, control, and modeling of self-assembling mechatronic systems. In particular, for having proposed algorithms able to produce automatically a control ruleset directly deployable on real miniature water-floating robotic modules, and capable of generating a targeted structure through self-assembly."
The newly emerged and quickly growing science of nanotechnology has been recognized as one of “the twenty-first century’s great leaps forward in scientific knowledge”. Self-assembly provides a powerful enabling technique for nanotechnology by providing a bottom-up solution as an alternative to the conventional top-down approach in nano-fabrication. Today, understanding and employing self-assembly is a quest pursued by researchers and engineers in almost every imaginable scientific field. In the pursuit of this goal, our research considers a programmable self-assembling distributed robotic system where the self-assembly building blocks are miniaturized robotic modules of a few centimeters in size. Our work leads us, on a high level, to ask this question: how can we influence and control the process of self-assembly in our system so that our robotic modules put themselves together into specific predefined structures? Addressing this question, we follow three distinct though highly intertwined research directions concerned with the mechatronic design, modeling, and control of our self-assembling robotic system. For all these three aspects studied in this work, we intentionally make an effort to develop and employ techniques that extend beyond the experimental system used in our studies. It is our hope that the design, modeling, and control methods and principles explored in this work will provide a basis for researchers not only in the robotics community but also all the various fields that are currently investing in the development of engineered self-assembling systems.