Collaborative Research: RI: Medium: Living Architectures: From Army Ants to Self-Assembling Robot Swarms

Project: Research project

Project Details


This work investigates functional (blueprint-free) construction in natural systems with the objective of creating artificial systems that can construct in a similar fashion. To accomplish this, the proposed work will investigate an example of functional construction found in nature, the formation of army ant bridges. Powell, with expertise in experimental fieldwork with army ants, will lead studies of army ant construction. This will be used to determine the rules the ants use to form structures, and the range of problems they can solve. Garnier, with expertise in analyzing and modeling army ant construction behavior, will work with Rubenstein and Nagpal to create models and simulations of the bridge formation from the experimental results. These models will test the rules learned from the ants, analyze the stability and dynamics of such behaviors, and guide the design of artificial systems. These models will also be used to generate predictions on the construction behavior of ants in different spatial configurations of their environment and test them with a second series of field experiments. Guided by the lessons learned from the ants and from the models/simulations, Rubenstein and Nagpal, roboticists with expertise in the design, creation, and control of large robot swarms, will create a swarm of 30+ autonomous robots for the self-assembly of functional bridges. In addition, they will create a generalized method for building functional structures given a desired function. This generalized method will be quantitatively compared to an approach using genetic algorithms, and applied to other engineering problems, such as stabilizing a weakened structure, using experiments in models and on the developed robot swarm. Keywords: bio-inspired control; swarm robotics; collective intelligence
Effective start/end date8/1/207/31/24


  • National Science Foundation (IIS-1956019)


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