D. P. Holland, et al., “The Soft Robotics Toolkit: Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles to the Wide Dissemination of Soft-Robotic Hardware,” IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, Special Issue on Open Source and Widely Disseminated Robot Hardware, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 57-64, 2017. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The Soft Robotics Toolkit (SRT) is an open-access website containing detailed information about the design, fabrication, and characterization of soft-robotic components and systems (Figure 1). Soft robotics is a growing field of research concerned with the development of electromechanical technology composed of compliant materials or structures. The SRT website hosts design files, multimedia fabrication instructions, and software tutorials submitted by an international community of soft-robotics researchers and designers. In this article, we describe the development of the SRT and some challenges in developing widely disseminated robotic-hardware resources. Our attempts to overcome these challenges in the development of the toolkit are discussed by focusing on strategies that have been used to engage participants ranging from K-12 grade students to robotics research groups. A series of design competitions encouraged people to use and contribute to the toolkit. New fabrication methods requiring only low-cost and accessible materials were developed to lower the entry barriers to soft robotics and instructional materials and outreach activities were used to engage new audiences. We hope that our experiences in developing and scaling the toolkit may serve as guidance for other open robotic-hardware projects.

D. Holland, E. J. Park, P. Polygerinos, G. J. Bennett, and C. J. Walsh, “The Soft Robotics Toolkit: Shared Resources for Research and Design,” Soft Robotics, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 224-230, 2014. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article describes the development of the Soft Robotics Toolkit, a set of open access resources to support the design, fabrication, modeling, characterization, and control of soft robotic devices. The ultimate aim of the toolkit is to support researchers in building upon each other's work, and thereby advance the field of soft robotics. An additional aim is to support educators and encourage students to pursue careers in engineering and science by making the resources as accessible as possible. The toolkit was developed and refined through a series of pilot studies and user tests. Specifically, the resources were used by students in a project-based medical device design course; volunteers from a variety of backgrounds tested the toolkit and provided feedback, and soft robotics researchers used the collection of resources and contributed to its development. Throughout all user studies, qualitative data were collected and used to guide improvements to the toolkit. This process of testing and refinement has resulted in a website containing design documentation describing general hardware control platforms and specific soft robotic component designs. The online documentation includes downloadable computer-aided design (CAD) files, detailed multimedia protocols for the fabrication of soft devices, tutorials and scripts for modeling and analyzing soft actuators and sensors, and source code for controlling soft devices. Successive iterations of qualitative data gathering and redesign have confirmed that the toolkit documentation is sufficiently detailed to be useful for researchers from a wide range of backgrounds. To date, the focus of the toolkit has primarily been fluid-actuated robotic systems, but the plan is to expand it to support a wider range of soft robotic-enabling technologies. The toolkit is intended as a community resource, and all researchers working in this field are invited to guide its future development by providing feedback and contributing new content.

D. Holland, E. J. Park, P. Polygerinos, G. J. Bennett, and C. J. Walsh, “Shared Online Resources to Support On-Demand Design and Fabrication of Soft Robotic Devices,” in RobotMakers: The future of digital rapid design and fabrication of robots (RoMa), in conjunction with the 2014 Robotics: Science and Systems Conference, Berkeley, CA, 2014. PDF
E. J. Park, D. Holland, P. Polygerinos, G. J. Bennett, and C. J. Walsh, “Shared Design Tools to Support Research and Development in Soft Robotics,” in Advances in Soft Robotics Workshop, in conjunction with the 2014 Robotics: Science and Systems Conference, Berkeley, CA, 2014. PDF
D. Holland, C. J. Walsh, and G. J. Bennett, “An assessment of student needs in project-based mechanical design courses,” in 120th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition (paper and presentation), Atlanta, GA, 2013. PDF
D. Holland, C. J. Walsh, and G. J. Bennett, “Tools for assessing student learning in mechanical design courses,” in 9th International CDIO Conference (poster), Cambridge, MA, 2013. PDF
P. Polygerinos, D. Holland, G. J. Bennett, and C. J. Walsh, “Towards Educational Kits for Soft Robotics applied to Medical Device Design,” in 2013 International Workshop on Soft Robotics and Morphological Computation, 2013. PDF
N. C. Hanumara, et al., “Classroom to Clinic: Merging Education and Research to Efficiently Prototype Medical Devices,” IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine, vol. 1, pp. 4700107, 2013. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Innovation in patient care requires both clinical and technical skills, and this paper presents the methods and outcomes of a nine-year, clinical-academic collaboration to develop and evaluate new medical device technologies, while teaching mechanical engineering. Together, over the course of a single semester, seniors, graduate students, and clinicians conceive, design, build, and test proof-of-concept prototypes. Projects initiated in the course have generated intellectual property and peer-reviewed publications, stimulated further research, furthered student and clinician careers, and resulted in technology licenses and start-up ventures.

D. Holland, C. J. Walsh, and G. J. Bennett, “Troublesome knowledge in engineering design courses,” in 6th Annual Conference of the National Academy for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, and the 4th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, 2012. PDF
N. C. Hanumara, C. J. Walsh, L. R. Osborn, R. Gupta, and A. H. Slocum, “Classroom to Clinic: Merging Education and Research to Efficiently Prototype Medical Devices,” in Proceedings of the 2012 IEEE Healthcare Innovation Conference: Translational Engineering in Health & Medicine, Methodist Hospital Research Institute, Houston, TX, 2012. PDF