This approach is therefore subject to a paradigm shift that not only creates individual components such as sensors or printed circuit boards, but also almost complete mechatronic systems made of soft, flexible materials such as silicones. Such systems have the great advantage that their structures have a high degree of flexibility and adaptability due to the flexibility of the material. In direct contact with humans, these systems therefore exhibit a certain degree of “inherent safety”, which reduces the risk of injury in the interaction between humans and robots.
The immanent paradigm shift of soft robotics - away from hard and towards soft materials - holds considerable potential, but at the same time poses special challenges for developers: While previous generations of robot systems only differ from their predecessors in terms of evolutionary development, the emergence of soft robotics represents a revolution over all previous solutions.
The SPP 2100 “Soft Material Robotic Systems” has set itself the task of actively meeting the challenges of this paradigm shift and developing novel approaches for the development of soft robots. The main disciplines involved are engineering, computer science, materials science, natural sciences and biomechanics.
Following a successful first general assembly last year, the second general assembly of the SPP2100 programme was planned this year in the beautiful city of Leipzig from 5th to 8th July. With the current restrictions in mind, it was planned as a hybrid event that allowed more than 50 researchers from 13 universities from all over Germany to join virtually or in person. Throughout the four days, the researchers had the chance to engage in valuable information exchanges and break free from their labs and enjoy the beautiful weather in Leipzig.
Raising awareness about gender equality and why it matters in academia is more important now than ever. Upholding the SPP2100 programme's values towards promoting gender equality, diversity, and social inclusion within its research groups, workshops are held to educate the young scientists about the importance of these topics and to encourage them to talk about the issues surrounding these topics.
The SPP 2100 programme is a collaboration between thirteen university groups within Germany, each group hosting at least two or more PhD students. Once a year, a meeting is organized to exchange ideas and updates among different groups, usually followed by a few soft skills workshops. While this meeting is usually held in person and allows the PhD students to take a break from the labs and meet their colleagues from all over the country, this year the process was different, owing to the ongoing restrictions.
In the modern world, gender inequality and diversity are topics often met with resistance to some degree. Statistics show an upward trend in the number of female PhD holders, and their representation in academia, specially in STEM, is on a path of progress, even if a little slow.
As soft robotics is becoming one of the most important and interesting fields of science, it is crucial now more than ever to introduce this field to the young scientists and researchers and to encourage them to pursue the field, in order to bring it to the heights it is more than capable of rising to. The soft robotics team at match had this ultimate objective in mind as they conducted the first workshop on Soft Robotics for the students of Leibniz University on 3rd December 2020.