Soft Robotics ToolkitThe Biodesign Lab does community outreach through a number of different programs, but a large part of our outreach effort comes through running workshops for children as part of the Soft Robotics Toolkit. The Soft Robotics Toolkit is an open source platform for soft robotics developed in the Biodesign Lab and grown out of a need for a shared collection of detailed design documentation to support students in a medical design course. What began as a way to centralize knowledge for a single classroom has grown into a website that gives anyone interested in learning about soft robotics a way to learn from and build off of work being done by others around the world.

In addition to this online presence, in person teaching sessions and workshops done locally in the Harvard community and at other universities abroad have allowed the Soft Tobotics Toolkit and the Harvard Biodesign Lab to reach children and get them excited about robotics. The lab's outreach activities generally are either lectures, short single day exercises, or longer multi-day workshops. Members of the Biodesign Lab have given lectures through programs such as Project Teach to give middle schoolers a glimpse of what being an engineer or designer in a university lab is all about. Additionally, short one day activities have been organized in the Cambridge Ringe and Latin School, through the Apprentice Learning program and the Artemis Project. The shorter ativities usually involve a breif introduction to Soft Robotics and then having the students build a small soft robotic actuator (like these grippers). Longer, multi day workshops have been run though the Harvard Ed Portal as well as organized in the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología in Lima, Peru. In the longer workshops, students are able to build multiple different types of actuators or sensors and are given design tasks to use what they've learned to design and build a novel robot of their own. More information about the workshops mentioned above is shown below.

2017 Workshops


Harvard Ed Portal Workshop
Age group: 10-14 | When: July 2017
In the second year of the Ed Portal’s soft robotics week participants built soft robotic ‘fingers’ using cardboard molds, silicone and string which they were able to connect to a small motor and pulley to create a simple robotic hand. Students also fabricated soft stretchable strain sensors, pneumatic wrist braces made of heat-weldable fabric and imagined their own soft robots in a design thinking exercise. 



Project Teach Lecture 
Age group: 10-14 | When: March 2017
This year’s Project Teach saw students from Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn, New York travel to Boston for an afternoon of campus tours, lectures and insight into college life. We hosted a lecture on soft robot applications, research, site content and what educational paths and skills can lead to a career in robots and engineering.


2016 Workshops


UTEC Workshop 
Age group: undergrads | When: July 2016
Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología in Lima, Peru was the site for a soft robotic workshop focused on bringing the Toolkit content to a global following and testing the quality of the Toolkit’s educational content with an international audience. The workshop participants were guided in a design activity where they were able to design, prototype and present a conceptual design with the hopes that the exposure could prepare students with the skills needed to build upon work already published on the Toolkit site.


Ed Portal Workshop 
Age group: 10-14 | When: July 2016
The Harvard Ed Portal, a collaborative partnership involving Harvard, the Allston-Brighton community, and the City of Boston, is the Allston-Brighton community outreach program dedicated to providing extracurricular, art programs, and personal and professional development programs where students can interface with Harvard undergrads and graduates. We held a one week program to teach the design process. Student were introduced to soft robotics through various design activities, including building molds, robotic components as well as participating in conceptual design projects and imaginative exercises.


CRLS Workshop 
Age group: 14-18 | When: March 2016
An after-school workshop run at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin high school was an opportunity for us to help spread soft robotics to high school students. These students had some experience in robotics from their core curriculum or from the robotics programs and clubs at the school. The workshop aimed to show these students the low-cost and easily available construction methods used for the mold-making such as cardboard, tape and hot glue, in hopes that it may inspire them in their own projects.


Apprentice Learning ​​​​
Age group: 14 | When: March 2016
Apprentice Learning is a program that gives eighth graders in the Boston Public Schools exposure to various career paths through short apprenticeships and hands-on learning. work within the industries they shadow. Working with this program, we organized a visit to the Wyss Institute where students participated in a workshop where students made soft pneumatic actuators and experimented with various types of materials such as ribbon, fabric and kevlar cord to control the movement of the actuators.



Project Teach Lecture 
Age group: 10-14 | When: March 2016
Project Teach is a Harvard SEAS program for local 6th-8th graders get to tour Harvard͛s campus, attend lectures from Harvard researchers, and get a feel for college life to inspire aspirations for higher education. The program included visits with undergraduates, classroom tours and a lecture where we spoke to students about soft robotics, the applications for the emerging field as well as the importance of higher education for pursuing this career path. The lecture included demonstrations of robotic components and at the conclusion of the lecture students played with the soft robot components that are published on the Toolkit site.


2015 Workshops


Artemis Project 
Age group: 14 | When: July 2015
The Artemis Project is a five-week summer program run by Boston University for rising 9th grade girls focused on computer science, robotics and electronics. As part of the program, participants toured various local universities where they heard from guest speakers and attended lectures to learn about real-world applications for science and engineering. As part of the visit to Harvard SEAS, we set up a crash course on soft robotics to help participants learn about two part molding processes and making the Soft Gripper, a 4-fingered gripper able to inflate and pick up small objects.