The Ants: A Community of Microrobots

As the field of robotics advances, new areas of research are emerging. Two of these new fields are microrobotics and robotic communities. The goal of my thesis is to explore both of these areas with an example borrowed from nature -- the ant colony.

Ants have evolved into one of the most successful species on earth. Two of the main reasons for this dominance are their small physical size and their community organization. Using real ants as a guide, the robot Ants have been designed with sensors and actuators analogous to their natural counterparts. Their software is written with cooperation in mind, aiming for community behaviors emerging from the interactions of many individuals. Their cubic-inch size produces a robot that is relatively inexpensive and practical to experiment with in a normal-size lab. Natural ants use a multitude of different foraging techniques, many of which involve synergistic cooperation among several individuals. A synergistic interaction is one that produces a group that is greater than the sum of its parts.

In this thesis, I have taken the first steps towards constructing a robotic community. Several autonomous microrobots were built and simple cooperative software was implemented.

Paper located here.

McLurkin J
Massachusetts Institute of Technology