Video Highlights

Check our latest work from ICRA 2020: Eciton Robotica and BayesBots

Visit our Youtube channel for videos on the latest robots and projects from our lab.

Lab Info

Our lab is part of the Computer Science Department, within the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard. We are a core lab member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard, and Prof. Nagpal co-leads the Bio-inspired Robotics Platform. We do research that spans computer science, robotics, and biology in many different ways. Our lab is committed to having a diverse, creative, interdisciplinary, team-oriented, and fun environment.

How to get to our Lab:
Address: 33 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Our main group space and lab is in the Maxwell Dworkin Building on the 2nd floor (MD 238 and MD236). (google map) 

Outreach and Lab Tours: We enjoy doing lab tours for groups aiming at broadening participation in robotics and STEM with underrepresented groups. Just contact Radhika. SEAS also offers great lab tours and activities covering all engineering (email 

Joining our lab: At the moment we are not taking new postdocs or graduate students. However many of our alumni are faculty and have related (and cool!) research programs. Do check out their labs as well! e.g. Profs. Kirstin Petersen and Nils Napp at Cornell, Mike Rubenstein at Northwestern, Spring Berman at ASU, and Sabine Hauert at Bristol (UK).

Kilobots image on the UCSF Bus


Biological systems, from cells to social insects, get tremendous mileage from the cooperation of vast numbers of cheap, unreliable, and limited individuals. What would it take to create our own artificial collectives of the scale and complexity that nature achieves?

Our group is interested in self-organizing systems, where large numbers of simple agents cooperate to produce complex and robust global behavior. We design and build novel bio-inspired robots and algorithms for collective intelligence, drawing inspiration from social insects and cells and body-brain-colony interactions. We also study self-organization in nature, specifically how social insects and cells cooperate to achieve complex tasks and what organizational principles translate accross scales. Our work combines AI, robotics (CS, EE & ME), and field biology.

A common theme in all of our work is understanding the relationship between local and global behavior: how does robust collective behavior arise from many locally interacting agents, and how can we engineer the local interactions of simple agents to achieve the global behaviors we want.

Fall SSR Retreat 2018Fall SSR Retreat, 2017

SSR Summer Kayak TripSummer Kayaking, 2018

Research and Lab Highlights

May 2020: Congrats to Dr. Melinda Malley! For successfully defending her thesis on one of the first fully autonomous and untethered soft climbing robots, that can also self-assemble adaptive structures. Congrats also to Jeremy Wanner for his successful EPFL masters thesis, and Billy Koech for his ES100 senior thesis, and to their supervisor Bahar Haghighat.

Check out the Harvard Gazette article on Jordan Kennedy and her work with beavers and the SEAS article on Billy Koech and his work with Harvard Engineers Without Borders. 

March 2020: Our latest work at ICRA 2020 (1) Eciton robotica: the first soft climbing robots that can self-assemble, and adaptive self-assembly algorithms inspired by army ants and (2) Bayes bots: decentralized bayesian decision making for robot collectives.  See the papers on our publications page and videos on the youtube channel. Talk links upcoming!

Jan 2020: Radhika Nagpal has been elected to the 2020 AAAI Fellows! 

AAAI Fellows 2020

Lab News, 2019: Lots to celebrate! Congrats to Melvin Gauci who has joined Amazon Robotics, and to Nicole Carey who will be joining AutoDesk Robotics as senior reseachers! Congrats also to Lab Alumni Prof. Kirstin Petersen @Cornell who won the Packard Foundation Fellowship! Congrats also to current lab member, Bahar Haghighat, for receiving the 2019 Gilbert Hausmann PhD Award for her EPFL dissertation on programmable matter design and theory. In other news: Kilobots are amongst several Wyss projects on display at the Biofuturism Exhibit @ Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum NY! The exhibit runs July 2019 - March 2020. And Root Robotics has been acquired by iRobot! We are excited for the next steps of of the Root Robot in its educational mission.  (Harvard Gazette, TechCrunch, TheRobotReport)

For more about our Lab's accomplishments, see our Press page.

Root robot at TED conference (April 2018)