Droplets. liquid that thinks. A scalable research and educational platform for swarm robotics

Our goal is to test swarming algorithms on a large scale, bring Droplets into a new college course, use Droplets to teach K-12 science, and provide Droplets for artistic use.


A Droplet is a small mobile robot that is based on 10 years experience in swarm robotics. The Droplets are the only platform that,

  • allow indefinitely long experiments by being powered from the floor,
  • move and communicate omni-directionally,
  • and can measure the distance and orientation of neighboring robots, allowing for complex pattern formation and self-assembly experiments.

Why Swarming?
Swarming is ubiquitous in nature. You can observe it in termites, slime mold, and ants, but if you think about it, everything is a swarm. Atoms as old as the universe interact with each other following the most basic laws of physics to form molecules, cells, brains and people.
Our lab wants to understand and teach these mechanisms, a.k.a swarm intelligence, using the Droplets. A swarm of Droplets will allow us to research important applications for swarm robotics such as

  • self-assembly,
  • distributed learning,
  • cell-differentiation and
  • the emergence of life-like behavior at an unprecedented scale!

In addition to performing research in swarming algorithms we plan the following activities.
    • Teach “Swarm Intelligence” as a college level class: The Droplet Platform allows us to teaches classes with hands on activities, with each student working own their own small swarm throughout the semester to develop a large scale experiment involving the entire swarm.
    • Teach K-12: We are working with the St. Vrain School district’s innovation center and other schools to develop teaching modules that range from organic chemistry (every Droplet acts as an atom) to modeling the immune system and, of course, robotics!

  • Art Installations: We are working with Michael Theodore and other artists to understand how matter can become alive. A swarm of Droplets is a totally new tool for artistic expression and we want to work with artists like Marina Zurkow and Stelarc who push the boundaries of our understanding of how we, our bodies, nature and technology interact.

Your Support
Your donations will help us to set off setup cost and allow us to reach cheaper costs per robot through volume discounts. You can also suport this project by supporting educational or artist packages. A detailed list of our rewards is available under the “market” tab of this project.
A breakdown of ourpreliminary cost estimate is listed below. As you can see, the volume discounts really kick in when we start mass-production of Droplets.
Quantity 100 500 1000
Shell Mold $50.00 $10.00 $6.00
Shells $1.00 $0.80 $0.50
PCB Manufacture $5.00 $1.70 $1.50
Parts ATMEL Mic. $5.00 $3.00 $2.50
Parts – Supercap $7.00 $4.00 $3.50
Parts – Other $18.00 $13.00 $10.00
Assembly $5.00 $4.00 $3.00
CU Facilities Overhead $9.00 $3.50 $3.00
Cost per Droplet  $100.00    $40.00    $30.00

Our Team
Nikolaus Correll (Asst. Professor)
PhD in Computer Science EPFL
2007 MS in Electrical Engineering ETH
2009 Asst. Professor in Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering (by courtesy), Aerospace Engineering Sciences (by courtesy)
Affiliate, Material Science Engineering program
Anshul Kanakia (Ph.D. Candidate)
BS in Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2010

Research interests: Design and Application of Swarm Robot Algorithms
John Klingner (Ph.D. Student)
BA in Computer Science, Cornell College, 2012
BA in Physics, Cornell College, 2012
BA in Mathematics, Cornell College, 2012

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