LCSR Seminar: Aaron Becker “Robot Swarm Tricks: Overcoming Severe Under-Actuation and Limited Sensing”

April 11, 2018 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Hackerman B17
Ashley Moriarty


Steered particles offer a method for targeted therapy, interventions, and drug delivery in regions inaccessible by large robots. Magnetic actuation has the benefits of requiring no tethers, being able to operate from a distance, and in some cases allows imaging for feedback (e.g. MRI). However, for MRI and setups where the distances between external magnets are much larger than the robot workspace, the magnetic field is approximately uniform across the workspace.  Moreover, the system is severely under-actuated when there are more particles than control inputs. In my talk I’ll share tricks we use to overcome this underactuation for coverage, manipulation, self-assembly, and steering large numbers of particles.   You can help — visit and play some games.



Aaron Becker’s passion is robotics and control. Currently as an Assistant Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Houston, he is building a robotics lab. NSF selected Aaron for the CAREER award  in 2016 to study massive manipulation with swarms: using a shared input to drive large populations of robots to arbitrary goal states. Becker won the Best Paper award at IROS 2014. As a Research Fellow in a joint appointment with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, he implemented robotics powered and controlled by the magnetic field of an MRI. As a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Rice University, Aaron investigated control of distributed systems and nanorobotics with experts in the fields. His online game seeks to understand the best ways to control a swarm of robots by a human. The project achieves this through a community of game-developed experts. Aaron earned his PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.