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Stevens Institute of Technology

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March 11, 2010

Student Team to Participate in NIST Mobile Microrobotics Challenge

A team of students from Stevens Institute of Technology, led by Professor David Cappelleri, Professor Jan Nazalewicz and Professor Yong Shi, have been accepted for participation in the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Mobile Microrobotics Challenge to be held at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Anchorage, Alaska this May 3-10, 2010.

The team’s microrobot design is an “asymmetrically dimensioned magnetostrictive thin film bimorph microrobot”. Utilizing the magnetostrictive principle, different bending and blocking forces occur under the robot’s feet due to the in-plane strain generated in the bimorphs by the application of external magnetic fields. The differences in the resulting frictional forces drive the movement of the robot.

All robots entered in the competition must be no bigger than 600 micrometers in their largest dimension and must be able to operate without the direct connection of wires i.e. untethered operation. The competition will consist of three events structured to test each microrobot’s speed, agility, and ability to manipulate small objects.

  • The Two-Millimeter Dash: Microrobots are required to sprint across a distance of two millimeters, beginning from a dead stop, and come to rest in a defined location.
  • Microassembly: Microrobots must insert pegs into designated holes in a planar assembly framework.
  • Freestyle Competition: Event to highlight the strengths of their microrobot design by performing a task of the teams choosing.

The team consists of an undergraduate student, Sean Lyttle, along with graduate students: Wuming Jing, Xi Chen, and Zhenbo Fu from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Stay tuned for the competition results!

About the NIST Microrobotics Challenge

Recent advances in the design and fabrication of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) have enabled the development of mobile microrobots that can autonomously navigate and manipulate in controlled environments. It is expected that this technology will be critical in applications as varied as intelligent sensor networks, in vivo medical diagnosis and treatment, and adaptive microelectronics.

However, many challenges remain, particularly with respect to locomotion, power storage, embedded intelligence, and motion measurement. As a result, NIST has organized performance-based competitions for mobile microrobots that are designed to: 1) motivate researchers to accelerate microrobot development, 2) reveal the most pressing technical challenges, and 3) evaluate the most successful methods for locomotion and manipulation at the microscale e.g., actuation techniques for crawling.

For more information, please contact:




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