Hosting CEED Students for Research Projects
In 2018 Fall, we partnered with Center for Excellence in Engineering and Diversity (CEED) at UCLA and hosted six freshmen to work on a research project, as a part of their class ENGR 87 Introduction to Engineering Disciplines. The six freshmen are: Emmanuel Boitey, Mya Cross, Rebecca Cielo Cruz, Susana Rastelli, Jasmine Raya, and Sarah Sleboda. They were assigned to build pneumatically-actuated soft actuators that can achieve both bending and twisting motions. Yuzhen, as a graduate research mentor, supervised them through the process of creating and testing a soft actuator.
These students went through the whole procedure of building a soft actuator, including design, fabrication, control and testing. They learned to create a solid model for the molds in CAD, and to print their designs using 3D printers. After they got familiar with the silicone casting process, the students molded component parts and assembled them together. Meanwhile, they learned how to fix the broken parts and seal the intersections. They also built a control system that can adjust the pressure inside the air chambers. The control system contains an air pump, a voltage regulator and two solenoid valves. Finally, they tested the actuators with a multimeter, and showed how their actuators could be utilized to grasp various objects.
This project provides the students a brief overview on designing soft actuators, as well as some hands-on activities. It would inspire these freshmen’s interest in soft robotics and encourage them to pursue a career in engineering.
Photo taken at the lab (from left to right: Jasmine Raya, Susana Rastelli, Sarah Sleboda, Cielo Cruz, Mya Cross, Emmanuel Boitey, Lihua Jin, Yuzhen Chen)
Yuzhen is demonstrating how to test the soft actuators
(a). 3D-printed molds used for casting the soft actuators, (b). Electro-pneumatic circuit for inflating and deflating a soft actuator, which contains an air pump, a voltage regulator and two solenoid valves (not included in this photo). The shape of a soft actuator (c) before and (d) after actuation. (e). A soft actuator twining around a marker.