During my junior year at Tufts, I and three friends worked on a project for the Intel-Cornell Cup.
The idea was to improve upon a robotic gripper arm developed by Cornell and the University of Chicago. Their design uses a balloon filled with granular material and a vacuum pump to cling to objects. First the balloon is loosely pressed onto an object; then the vacuum is initiated to pull air out of the balloon, causing the material inside to become rigid. At that point, enough friction is applied to the object that the arm can pick it up. Here’s a video of it in action:
Our improvements revolved around making the arm suitable for use in space. This entailed replacing the vacuum with hydraulics and making it air-tight.
We regularly posted on a Cornell-hosted blog with updates throughout the development of the project. To read more in-depth, you can check out our posts here.
With this project, we earned third place at the finals in Florida, which we shared with a few other teams.