Matthew A. Robertson


Matthew A. Robertson is a PhD candidate in the Reconfigurable Robotics Laboratory (RRL) at EPFL, currently active in the fields of soft robotics and wearable devices. His research involves the design, development, and characterization of new soft-material-based actuators, along with their unique application in versatile, safe, and robust robotic systems. Beyond this current focus, Matthew is also generally interested in dynamic robotic legged locomotion, and mechanically-informed hueristic design strategies. Prior to entering his PhD program, he worked as a research engineer with a startup company designing, fabricating, and testing advanced robotic prosthetic devices. Matthew received a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Michigan (UM), Ann Arbor and a Bachelor of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).


There are many practical applications for robots in underwater settings, including sensing, monitoring, exploration, reconnaissance, or inspection tasks. In the interest of expanding this activity and opportunity within aquatic environments, I will describe the development of a swimming robot characterized by simple, robust, and scalable design. The robot, named RoboScallop, is inspired by the locomotion of bivalve scallops, utilizing two articulating rigid shell components and a soft elastic membrane to produce water jet propulsion. A single-DoF, reciprocating crank mechanism enclosed within the shell housing of the robot is used to generate pulsating thrust, and the performance of this novel swimming method is evaluated by characterization of the robot jet force and swimming speed. This is the first time jet propulsion is demonstrated for a robot swimming in normal, Newtonian fluid using a bivalve morphology. We found the metrics of the robot to be comparable to its biological counterpart but free from metabolic limitations which prevent sustained free swimming in living species. Leveraging this locomotion principle may provide unique benefits over other existing underwater propulsion techniques, including robustness, scalability, resistance to entanglement, and possible implicit water treatment capabilities, to drive the further development of a new class of self-contained, hybrid-stiffness underwater robots.