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Self-assembly

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BBC

Prof. Neil Gershenfeld and graduate student Amira Abdel-Rahma speak with BBC Digital Planet reporters Gareth Mitchell and Ghislaine Boddington about their research developing tiny robots that can assemble themselves into structures, vehicles or even larger robots. “The main objective of this research is the robot can have a few choices,” says Abdel-Rahma. “First it can build the structure, the second choice is it could self-replicate or clone… the third, it could evolve and build a bigger robot.”

Fox News

Paul Best reports for Fox Business on how MIT researchers are developing tiny robots with built-in intelligence that can allow them to assemble into structures, vehicles or even larger robots.

Popular Science

Researchers from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms are developing fully autonomous robots that can work together to assemble “almost any conceivable structure or product, including bigger iterations of themselves as their projects scale larger,” reports Andrew Paul for Popular Science. “Potential uses include building structures to aid in protection against sea level rise and coastal erosion,” writes Paul, “as well as 3D printed houses and space habitat construction.”

TechCrunch

Researchers from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms are developing robots that can effectively self-assemble and could even build large structures, reports Brian Heater for TechCrunch. “At the system’s center are voxels (a term borrowed from computer graphics), which carry power and data that can be shared between pieces,” writes Heater. “The pieces form the foundation of the robot, grabbing and attaching additional voxels before moving across the grid for further assembly.”

New Scientist

Prof. Nikta Fakhri and her colleagues have placed hundreds of starfish embryos into salt-water tanks where they arrange themselves into honeycomb-like patterns at the water’s surface, reports Karmela Padavic-Callaghan for New Scientist. “These structures, which had never been seen before, may form because of the embryos’ swimming style and body shape,” explains Padavic-Callaghan.

Fast Company

Ariel Ekblaw, director of the Space Exploration Initiative and founder of the Aurelia Institute, speaks with Fast Company reporter Rachael Zisk about accessibility needs for human spaceflight and the next generation of space stations. “The goal of democratizing access to space is to allow more people around the world to see themselves in that future,” says Ekblaw. 

TechCrunch

TechCrunch reporter Brian Heater spotlights multiple MIT research projects, including MIT Space Exploration Initiative’s TESSERAE, CSAIL’s Robocraft and the recent development of miniature flying robotic drones.

Hidden Brain

Hidden Brain podcaster Shankar Vedantam speaks with NGO leader and Maldives native, Hassan Maniku, who is working with researchers from the MIT Self-Assembly Lab to find a natural process to quickly build islands to combat the growing effects of rising sea levels on coastal communities. “People in the Maldives know they can’t stop the ocean from rising, they have to adapt to that reality and over the last several years, that is exactly what they have started to do,” says Vedantam. 

Tech Briefs

Graduate student Benjamin Jenett speaks with Tech Briefs about his work developing a new kind of airplane wing that can adapt in the air to changing conditions. "If you can have an aircraft that can actively change its shape, then you can optimize its performance," says Jenett.

TechCrunch

MIT researchers have created an ambulatory motor that can “walk” back and forth or make the gears of another machine move. “On its own, this little moving microbe is impressive enough,” writes Darrell Etherington for TechCrunch, “but its real potential lies in what could happen were it to be assembled with others of its ilk, and with other building-block robotics components made up of simple parts.”

Fast Company

Fast Company reporter Katharine Schwab writes that MIT startup Ministry of Supply worked with researchers at the MIT Self-Assembly Lab to develop a new sweater that can be adjusted for an individual’s specific size using heat. “The fabric shrinks when exposed to heat, thanks to both the structure of the knit and the combination of materials used,” explains Schwab.

New York Times

In an article for The New York Times Magazine about design challenges, Jon Gertner highlights Prof. Skylar Tibbits’ idea to reimagine cell towers. By making cell towers responsive to external stimuli, Tibbits believes they can gain in flexibility and functionality, and will have “personality and an aesthetic of movement.”

The Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Lee Hotz writes that MIT engineers have developed a flexible airplane wing that could improve a plane’s fuel consumption by improving the wing’s aerodynamics. Hotz explains that the wing’s “elastic airfoil can morph continuously to reduce drag, increase stall angle, and reduce vibration control flutter.”

CNN

MIT researchers have developed a self-assembling phone, reports Heather Kelly for CNN. “A phone that assembles itself could help manufacturers cut down on costs, or open the door for more experimental phone designs,” writes Kelly. 

Slate

Pheobe Gavin reports for Slate on self-assembling origami robots developed by Professor Daniela Rus’ team that could one day be refined for use in surgery or other medical applications: “The origami robot can walk, swim, push objects, climb inclines, and carry objects twice its weight.”