Microsoft Future Leaders in Robotics and AI Seminar Series: Steven Ceron

Friday, March 17, 2023
2:00 p.m.
Online Seminar

Enabling Robot Swarms Across Length Scales

Zoom Link

Steven Ceron
Postdoc Fellow
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Collectives in nature demonstrate behaviors that extend far beyond the capabilities of any single agent. Social slime mold, for example, has thousands of cells that aggregate and form mobile and immobile nutrient-searching structures as a function of chemical signals. This species embodies many features that swarm roboticists wish to incorporate in scalable, self-reconfigurable robot collectives: local-to-global behaviors, low-level communication, plasticity, and simple constituents. I argue that regardless of the length scale, we can implement some of the same principles and features to exploit robot morphology, physical interactions among agents, and low-level coordination mechanisms to enable diverse collective behaviors for useful functions in many fields. I present novel emergent collective behaviors at the macro-scale and micron scale and explain how each behavior arises as a function of agents interacting with other agents, agents reacting to their environment, and agents exploiting their environment to affect other agents. Specifically, I show cell-inspired, macro-scale soft robot collectives for distributed systems with coupled sensing and actuation, magnetic microrobot collectives with reconfigurable morphologies and functions for biomedical applications, and cross-scale coordination mechanisms through virtual swarming coupled oscillators for macro- and micro-scale collective control applications.


Steven Ceron is a currently a postdoctoral fellow at MIT where he focuses on all aspects of mechanical design, algorithm development, and system integration of robotic systems that use low-level coordination mechanisms to enable diverse emergent collective behaviors at the macro- and micro-scale. He is currently advised by Professors Daniela Rus and YuFeng Chen and he completed his PhD at Cornell University in Professor Kirstin Petersen’s Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab. His work is being published in a wide variety of journals and conferences with interests to roboticists, physicists, and mathematicians, and has been highlighted in multiple media outlets including National Geographic and IEEE Spectrum. He is a recipient of the Fulbright Germany Scholarship, the Cornell Colman fellowship, the National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship, and the MIT postdoctoral fellowship for engineering excellence.

About the Seminar Series

The Future Leaders in Robotics and AI: Celebrating Diversity and Innovation Seminar Series is part of the University of Maryland and Microsoft Robotics and Diversity Initiative. This is a nationwide online seminar series for PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, or early-career professionals, especially underrepresented minorities and women. The seminar series highlights the latest research and innovation in the field of robotics and AI. The series is intended to provide exposure and mentorship opportunities to the speakers, build a network of innovators across the country, and support the speakers’ career planning.

The seminars are held once per month during the academic year. There are two speakers per seminar. Each speaker gives a 20-minute research presentation followed by a Q&A segment. Immediately after the second seminar, the speakers participate in a discussion with faculty.

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