James Bern
Postdoctoral Associate
MIT CSAIL
Distributed Robotics Lab
jbern@mit.edu
he / him / his



Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Please reach out at jbern@mit.edu if you are interested in doing an MIT UROP or SuperUROP in the Distributed Robotics Lab on soft-rigid robot computational design, modeling, and control. I currently mentor projects with MIT undergrads in Electrical Engineering + Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering.

Here are some project ideas (also please feel free to bring your own!):


Octopus-Inspired Soft-Rigid Control

Octopi use control strategies of different "stiffness" depending on the task. When reaching for food, they propogate a contraction wave down their arm, which acts like a compliant whip. In contrast, when moving food to their beak they contract the muscle fibers in their arm in such a way that they effectively manifest joints. This project would investigate model-based control methods that blend traditional rigid robot inverse kinematics with soft robot inverse kinematics (Soft IK).


Monolithic Variable-Stiffness Robots

Recent work in the Distributed Robotics Lab has developed ways to make multi-material robots capable of massive stiffness modulation. An open question is whether we can harness advanced 3D-printing techniques to create similar robots using a single digital fabrication process. This project would investigate computational design of lattice structures to create monolithic variable-stiffness robots.


Modular Robot Minecraft

Recent work in the Distributed Robotics Lab has developed a new modular robotic system capable of unprecedented strength and precision. Its capabilities remain relatively unexplored. This project would investigate creating a 3D Minecraft-inspired interactive visualizer to enable intuitive discovery and authorship of novel modular robot reconfiguration strategies.