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Microsoft Future Leaders in Robotics and AI Seminar Series

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Enabling Robot Swarms Across Length Scales

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Steven Ceron

Postdoc Fellow

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Collectives in nature demonstrate behaviors that extend far beyond the capabilities of any single agent. Social slime mold, for example, has thousands of cells that aggregate and form mobile and immobile nutrient-searching structures as a function of chemical signals. This species embodies many features that swarm roboticists wish to incorporate in scalable, self-reconfigurable robot collectives: local-to-global behaviors, low-level communication, plasticity, and simple constituents. I argue that regardless of the length scale, we can implement some of the same principles and features to exploit robot morphology, physical interactions among agents, and low-level coordination mechanisms to enable diverse collective behaviors for useful functions in many fields. I present novel emergent collective behaviors at the macro-scale and micron scale and explain how each behavior arises as a function of agents interacting with other agents, agents reacting to their environment, and agents exploiting their environment to affect other agents. Specifically, I show cell-inspired, macro-scale soft robot collectives for distributed systems with coupled sensing and actuation, magnetic microrobot collectives with reconfigurable morphologies and functions for biomedical applications, and cross-scale coordination mechanisms through virtual swarming coupled oscillators for macro- and micro-scale collective control applications.


Steven Ceron is currently a postdoctoral fellow at MIT where he focuses on all aspects of mechanical design, algorithm development, and system integration of robotic systems that use low-level coordination mechanisms to enable diverse emergent collective behaviors at the macro- and micro-scale. He is currently advised by Professors Daniela Rus and YuFeng Chen and he completed his PhD at Cornell University in Professor Kirstin Petersen’s Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab. His work is being published in a wide variety of journals and conferences with interests to roboticists, physicists, and mathematicians, and has been highlighted in multiple media outlets including National Geographic and IEEE Spectrum. He is a recipient of the Fulbright Germany Scholarship, the Cornell Colman fellowship, the National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, and the MIT postdoctoral fellowship for engineering excellence.


Online Registration Link: Links to Zoom web meeting


A. James Clark School of Engineering

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