BEST (Berkeley Emergent Space Tensegrities) Robotics

 Berkeley_Engineer2015  BGC2014
Tensegrity Robots: Inspired by Nature and Toys Black Girls Code with Tensegrities: Jasmine Gipson Lead Graduate Student (right)

Tensegrity robots are revolutionary soft robotic concepts that integrate biomimetics and tensegrity structures. Tensegrity robots are composed of purely tensile and compressive components (cables and rods). We are exploring co-robot applications (where humans and robots work as partners) since they are unlikely to harm their environment or human users. The application areas we are pursuing include space exploration, home health care, and search & rescue. Our tensegrity robot research has been featured in Wired Magazine, the Economist, the Smithsonian, Discovery Channel and IEEE Spectrum. We are part of the Robots and People initiative at CITRIS (Center for Information Technology in the Interest of Society).

The BEST team researches multiple different types of tensegrity structures for robotics applications. In particular, we have teams developing spherical tensegrity structures for hopping and rolling motion, and a team working on a walking robot with a flexible spine called Laika, the walking tensegrity quadruped.

Working with Vytas SunSpiral and Adrian Agogino from the Intelligent Systems Division of the NASA Ames Research Center, we have recently won a new grant from NASA titled: Precision Hopping/Rolling Robotic Surface Probe Based on Tensegrity Structures (ESI NASA Grant NNX15AD74G-Agogino). Tensegrity structures are composed of pure compression and tension elements. They can be lightweight, reliable and deployable. Mission Scenario: Tightly packed tensegrity probe can expand, then travel 1 km using gas thruster over series of hops. The same tensegrity structure which cushioned the landing is then used for mobility down cliff wall, over sand dunes and through lava tubes, then accurately delivers 1 kg of payload protected in center. The Berkeley rapidly-prototyped tensegry robot  (Version 3) below illustrates the location of the cold gas thruster and payload at the center.


10-8-2015 -Thurster High Res -5  Tensegrity Thruster with Payload

Professor Alice Agogino and her team introduce the BEST Lab’s tensegrity research in the video (below).

The simulated images and animations below are for the Super Ball Bots application envisioned for space applications where they could deployed and bounce to a landing on Titan (moon of Saturn) before moving and exploring the surface.


See video of NASA collaborators Adrian Agogino and Vytas SunSpiral explain the structural advantages of tensegrity robots in this article and video (below right): NASA’s Squishable ‘Super Ball Bot’ Could Explore Titan, IEEE Spectrum, December 2013.

Also see Kyunam Kim’s simulation of the Super Bot robot using a lumped mass model of six struts (below left), and our recently developed rapid prototyping six-strut tensegrity robot (below right).

A link to the 2015-2016 Master of Engineering teams’ page is here.  Also see Tensegrity Robots for Home Healthcare.

Masters of Engineering 2017-2018 students:

We are looking for 3-4 highly motivated students to work in the following areas

  1. Investigation of impact response and payload protection characteristics of spherical tensegrity robots. Student(s) will work closely with a current PhD student in the design and fabrication of impact experiments which will be conducted on active and passive tensegrity structures. These tests will provide information on the robot’s survivability and robustness under various impact conditions and inform future design decisions.
  2. Design of a proof of concept search and rescue scenario involving the aerial deployment of a tensegrity robot and subsequent navigation to location of interest on rugged terrain. Student(s) will solve challenging mission-level planning problems as well as work on the design and control of robust hardware for demonstrations.

Students in the Controls or Design subject areas will be eligible for these projects. If you are interested, come see us at the capstone info fair on Friday, August 18th, 2017.

Related News and Videos

Related Publications

  • L.-H. Chen, P. Keegan, M. Yuen, A.M. Agogino, R.K. Kramer, A.K. Agogino and V. SunSpiral. “Soft Robots Using Compliant Tensegrity Structures and Soft Sensors”. Presented at Soft Robotics Workshop, ICRA 2015.
  • Kyunam Kim, Adrian K. Agogino, Aliakbar Toghyan, Deaho Moon, Laqshya Taneja, Alice M. Agogino. “Robust Learning of Tensegrity Robot Control for Locomotion through Form-Finding.” International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2015), Hamburg, Germany, 2015.
  • Kyunam Kim, Adrian K. Agogino, Alice M. Agogino. “Emergent Form-Finding for Center of Mass Control of Ball-Shaped Tensegrity Robots.” Presented at workshop at ARMS (Autonomous Robots and Multirobot Systems) workshop, Istanbul, Turkey, May 4-5.
  • Andrew P. Sabelhaus, Jonathan Bruce, Ken Caluwaerts, Pavlo Manovi, Roya Fallah Firoozi, Sarah Dobi, Alice M. Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral. “System Design and Locomotion of SUPERball, and Autonomous Tensegrity Robot.”  Proceedings of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) 2015.
  • Kyunam Kim, Adrian K. Agogino, Deaho Moon, Laqshya Taneja, Aliakbar Toghyan, Borna Dehghani, Vytas SunSpiral,  Alice M. Agogino. “Rapid Prototyping Design and Control of Tensegrity Soft Robot for Locomotion.” In Proceedings of 2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics (ROBIO2014), December 2014, Bali, Indonesia. Finalist Best Student Paper. (Video of experiments)
  • Jonathan Bruce, Ken Caluwaerts, Atil Iscen, Andrew P. Sabelhaus, and Vytas SunSpiral. “Design and Evolution of a Modular Tensegrity Robot Platform.” International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), May 2014.
  • Jonathan Bruce, Andrew P. Sabelhaus, Ken Caluwaerts, Alice M. Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral. “SUPERball: Exploring Tensegrities for Planetary Probes.” 12th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Automation in Space (i-SAIRAS). June 2014.
  • Andrew P. Sabelhaus, Ken Caluwaerts, Jonathan Bruce, Alice M. Agogino, Vytas SunSpiral. “SUPERball: Modular Hardware for a Mobile Tensegrity Robot.” 6th World Conference on Structural Control and Monitoring (6WCSCM), Special Session on Tensegrity Systems. June 2014.
  • Super Ball Bot – Structures for Planetary Landing and Exploration with Report and Presentation.
  • “Presentation on Tensegrity Robots for Planetary Exploration,” NASA Ames, March 21, 2013.

Internal Resources

Useful Tensegrity publications:

Feature Image Caption: BEST Team with versions of tensegrity robots, Fall 2014 (back) Aliakbar Toghyan, Kyunam Kim, Xiang Li, Borna Dehghani, Azhar Khaderi, Hao Ji(front) Andrew P. Sabelhaus, Prof. Alice M. Agogino, Jasmine Gipson, Yakshu Madaan, Hugo Wagner.