Maryland Robotics Center Research Symposium 2024

Symposium RegistrationIndustry Night Registration

Michael Dickey, Camille and Henry Dreyfus Professor, NC State University


Nathan Lazarus, Associate Professor, University of Delaware


Title: Liquid Metals for Soft Robotics

Abstract: This talk will discuss the use of liquid metals for soft and stretchable electronics and devices (1) . Alloys of gallium are noted for their low viscosity, low toxicity, and near-zero vapor pressure (2) . Despite the large surface tension of the metal, it can be patterned into non-spherical 2D and 3D shapes due to the presence of an ultra-thin oxide skin that forms on its surface (3) . Because it is a liquid, it can be patterned in ways that are truly unique for metals, such as printing, injection, and selective wetting. The metal is extremely soft and flows in response to stress to retain electrical continuity under extreme deformation (4) . By embedding the metal into elastomeric or gel substrates, it is possible to form soft, flexible, and conformal electrical components, stretchable antennas, and ultra-stretchable wires that maintain metallic conductivity up to the strain limits of the encasing material. In addition to discussing the advantages of these materials for electronics, this talk will focus on recent work from our group to utilize and understand the behavior of liquid metal. For example, it is useful for tactile sensors. The sensors detect touch from changes in capacitance. By using soft composites consisting of liquid metal particles dispersed in elastomer, it is possible to increase the dielectric properties while using ultra-soft materials (5) . Thus, the sensors are very sensitive to touch. Furthermore, liquid metals can form hermetic seals in soft devices. Normally, soft materials such as elastomers are highly permeable to gas, making them poorly suited for devices that contain gas or electrolyte, such as batteries (6) . Recently, we showed that liquid metals can form perfect barrier materials that are soft and stretchable. Finally, recent work shows it is possible to use liquid metal to actuate soft robots using either surface tension to exert forces on surfaces (7) or electrochemical formation of gas to expand pneumatic chambers (8) . Combined, these advances have exciting implications for soft robotic materials.

Michael Dickey received a BS in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology (1999) and a PhD from the University of Texas (2006) under the guidance of Professor Grant Willson. From 2006-2008 he was a post-doctoral fellow in the lab of Professor George Whitesides at Harvard University. He is currently the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Professor in the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at NC State University. He completed a sabbatical at Microsoft in 2016 and EPFL in 2023. Michael’s research interests include soft matter (liquid metals, gels, polymers) for soft and stretchable devices (electronics, energy harvesters, textiles, and soft robotics).

Title: Creating Soft and Stretchable Electromagnetic Devices for Soft Robotics

Abstract: Magnetic actuation is the most widely used actuation approach in conventional robotics due to its linear response with current, ease of generating large forces and low required voltages. Electromagnets are however challenging to make soft and stretchable, leading to other technologies such as pneumatics being far more common in soft robotics. In my talk, I will be discussing all aspects of creating stretchable and flexible electromagnetic devices and their use in soft robotic systems such as fluidic pumps and magnetorheological grippers. I will focus on the use of room temperature liquid metals and stretchable magnetic materials to enable stretchable electromagnets and maximize responsiveness to magnetic fields. Using these approaches, we demonstrate new records in performance, from a flexible solenoid pump with flow rates up to 320 mL/min to a magnetorheological composite capable of 70x stiffness tuning and 20 ms response time.

Nathan Lazarus has worked extensively in areas ranging from mixed signal electronics to MEMS fabrication, with his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon culminating in 2012 with the demonstration of the highest recorded fractional sensitivity to date for a capacitive chemical sensor topology integrated with CMOS electronics. Before joining the University of Delaware in Aug. 2022, he was a researcher at the US Army Research Laboratory with research focused on stretchable power systems, 3D printing and soft robotics. He has authored/co-authored 66 refereed journal articles and several book chapters, and has 21 patents awarded or pending. He has received numerous awards including ARL’s Early Career Award, ARL’s Honorary Award for Engineering and the Rookie of the Year Excellence in Federal Career Award (Gold) from the Baltimore Federal Executive Board. In 2019, Dr. Lazarus was selected for the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor given by the US government for researchers beginning their independent research careers.

MRC Industry Night which will take place May 22nd, 2024 from 6-10pm in the 1101 A. James Clark Hall Forum. Industry Night will feature talks, panel discussion, and networking with local robotics companies and UMD students. 

Agenda for Industry Night May 22, 2024 PDF iconAgendaPDF iconSpeaker Bios

Opening Remarks by Michael Otte, MRC Symposium General Chair 6:00pm-6:15pm

Presentation Session

  • Dr. Brian A. Bittner, Robotics Research Scientist, APL
  • Don Sofge, Head, Distributed Autonomous Systems Section, US Naval Research Lab

Networking Event with Coffee and Snacks 7:15pm-8:00pm

Panel Discussion: Robotics Outside of Academia

  • Dr. Carrie Rebhuhn, Principal Engineer, MITRE Corporation
  • Will Becker, Principal Systems Engineer, Forterra
  • Kevin Carey, Booz Allen Hamilton
Networking Event 9:00pm-9:45pm


MRC Research Symposium will take place May 23rd, 2024 from 8:45am-6:00pm in the 1101 A. James Clark Hall Forum. The symposium will feature keynote presentations by faculty from other institutions along with presentations from MRC faculty and students.

Agenda for Research Symposium May 23, 2024 PDF iconAgenda

Morning Coffee and Snacks 8:30am–9:00am
Opening Remarks by Derek Paley, Director of Maryland Robotics Center 9:00am-9:15am

Morning Keynote Talk

Michael Dickey, Camille and Henry Dreyfus, Professor, NC State University. Liquid Metals for Soft Robotics.


Technical Session 1

  • Furong Huang, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland. Foundation Model for Robotics.
  • Ryan Sochol, Associate Professor, University of Maryland. Alternative 3D Printing Strategies for Soft Robots.
  • Sunandita Sarker, Postdoc Research Associate, University of Maryland. 3D-Microprinted Soft-Robotic Biopsy Tool via Direct Laser Writing.

Undergraduate Student Team Presentations 11:45am:12:05pm
Lunch & Poster Session
Lunch will be provided for people who registered by May 10, 2024.

Afternoon Keynote Talk

Nathan Lazarus, Associate Professor, University of Delaware. Creating Soft and Stretchable Electromagnetic Devices for Soft Robotics.


Technical Session 2

  • John Aloimonos, Professor, University of Maryland. Microsaccade-inspired Event Camera for Robotics. A Socratic Dialogue.
  • Shraddha Barawkar, Postdoc Research Associate, University of Maryland. Reinforcement Learning Driven Cooperative Ball Balance in Rigidly Coupled Drones.
Afternoon Coffee Break 3:25pm-3:45pm

Technical Session 3

  • Kieran James Barvenik, Clark Doctoral Fellow, University of Maryland. Tactile Sensing and Grasping through Thin-Shell Buckling.
  • Yantian Zha, Postdoc Research Associate, University of Maryland. Perceiving, Acting, Planning, And Self-Explaining: A Cognitive Quartet for Future Manufacturing.
Presentation of Best Poster Awards, Program Committee 4:25pm-4:40pm

Closing Remarks by Po-Yen Chen, MRC Symposium General Chair


MRC Robotics and Autonomy Lab Open House. 3119 IDEA Factory.



May 1, 2024: Best consideration date for poster and talk submissions

May 17, 2024: Deadline to submit lunch selection in the registration form

May 22, 2024: MRC Industry Night

May 23, 2024: MRC Research Symposium

Industry Night on May 22nd and the Research Symposium presentations on May 23rd will take place in 1101 A. James Clark Hall Forum

Address: 8278 Paint Branch Dr., College Park, MD 20742

Click here to view the campus map.

With the construction of the Purple Line, road and pedestrian walkway closures and detours have increased. Please view the visitor parking map provided by DOTS to know where to park on campus. The XFINITY Center Visitor Lot is the closest to the event.

DOTS advises visitors to enter and exit campus from University Boulevard (Maryland Route 193) at the intersections with Paint Branch Drive (near the XFINITY Center), Stadium Drive (near The Clarice) or Campus Drive/Adelphi Road (near UMGC).

For more information, go to:

Industry Night

General Chair: Michael Otte

Research Symposium

General Chair: Po-Yen Chen