Soft robotics expert receives NSF CAREER Award

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Conor J. Walsh, assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, has been selected to receive a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). One of the most prestigious honors recognizing early-career scientists and engineers, the award will support Walsh’s research in the burgeoning field of soft wearable robotics.

The award is from NSF’s General and Age Related Disabilities Engineering (GARDE) program, which advances fundamental engineering research that will lead to the development of new technologies, devices, or software for persons with disabilities.

Soft robotics combines robotics, design, chemistry, advanced manufacturing, and the mechanics of materials to solve problems in a range of application areas. Walsh’s work focuses on applying soft robotic systems to help individuals overcome disabilities, and to augment the performance of able-bodied people.

“Traditional robotic systems don’t translate easily from industrial settings to medical and home applications,” Walsh said. “One of the main reasons is because rigid components pose safety risks for people. We are overcoming that hurdle by designing soft robotic systems made of elastomers, fibers and textiles. A major aim of this work is to advance the state of the art of wearable robotics and intuitive human-robot interaction.”