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School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Modeling, Motion, and Medical Robotics Laboratory (M3 Robotics Lab)

Soft Robotics Educational Outreach

Lighthouse International School, San Rafael de Escazu, Costa Rica

Summary and Motivation

Each spring, Lighthouse International School hosts a STEM Fest to encourage creative thinking and motivate students to consider pursuing careers in STEM fields. This year, Lighthouse partnered with the M3 Robotics Lab member Emily Allen to include a soft robotics workshop as part of their STEM Fest. The goal of this workshop was to educate secondary students on the field of soft robotics and other engineering careers, inspire creativity, and demonstrate the applicability of the subjects they are taught in school. The workshop consisted of two parts which are outlined below: 1) an introduction to the field of soft robotics and other engineering careers and 2) a hands-on activity where students created their own pneumatic artificial muscle.

Introduction to Soft Robotics and Engineering Careers

Students were given a 25 minute presentation with interspersed Q&A, introducing them to the following topics:

  • What is mechanical engineering?
  • What are robots?
    • Parts of a robot
  • What are soft robots?
    • Motivation
    • Design challenges
    • Mimicking human behaviors
    • Pneumatic soft actuators

Hands-On Activity

In the second half of the workshop, students were guided through the process of building their own pneumatic artificial muscle (McKibben actuator) using materials provided to them in a kit. They fed a long, slender balloon through a braided sleeve and attached a supply tube, securing with a zip tie. A syringe attached to the supply tube could then be used to inflate the muscle, causing the muscle to contract like a human muscle. A demonstration was given using a wooden arm to show how a pneumatic artificial muscle attached to a robot joint could cause flexion (or extension) of the joint.


A fabrication tutorial is linked below for the pneumatic artificial muscle.

Fabrication Tutorial