Students at Rowan University now have the opportunity to delve into the world of robotics through a new set of courses focused on soft robotics. Led by Assistant Professor Mitja Trkov, Ph.D., and Associate Professor Wei Xue, Ph.D., this project aims to introduce students to a more flexible and human-friendly style of robots.
Unlike traditional robots made of rigid materials like plastic or metal, soft robots are designed to be more adaptable and natural in their movements. The emphasis on soft materials in this project allows students to gain exposure to a different skill set, one that may be challenging for those accustomed to working with traditional robots.
The inspiration for this project came from observing nature and how animals like octopuses, worms, and snakes move, which differs greatly from the movement of rigid robots. By eliminating the stiffness of traditional robots, soft robots can mimic the natural movements found in nature. Additionally, these soft robots are also more environmentally friendly, as the decomposing materials produce less waste compared to stainless steel robots.
Soft robotics courses will be integrated into the Mechanical Engineering Program through a new module that introduces students to the foundations of soft robotics. The module will debut in Spring 2024, and students who wish to delve further into the subject can pursue a Certificate of Undergraduate Studies in Soft Robotics. This certificate equips students with the necessary skills for various careers that require expertise in soft robotics.
According to Cassandra Jamison, Ph.D., an associate professor and faculty member of ExEEd, these courses have the potential to provide students with a holistic understanding of engineering and prepare them for careers where collaboration with professionals from different backgrounds is key. The courses are also open to other engineering majors, allowing for interdisciplinary learning and application in various engineering fields.
Dr. Trkov hopes that students will grasp the concept of applying knowledge from different disciplines to enhance their understanding of soft robotics. This new development in technological courses reflects Rowan University’s commitment to cutting-edge research and providing students with hands-on experiences in emerging technologies.
– Rowan University Professor Mitja Trkov and Associate Professor Wei Xue
– Cassandra Jamison, Ph.D., associate professor and faculty member of ExEEd