Dana Randall, ADVANCE Professor of Computing and Daniel Goldman, Dunn Family Professor of Physics, head a group of Georgia Tech researchers that use BOBbots (behaving, organizing, buzzing bots) to experiment collective robotic activity. The BOBbots are capable of clearing debris that is too heavy for one to move alone. The trick is to get a collection of BOBbots to work together. BOBbots are simple robots but researchers found that the robots can form "compact aggregates" that are able to perform chores like clearing debris.
"The team's simple BOBbots were named for granular physics pioneer Bob Behringer," explains Randall. "Their cylindrical chassis have vibrating brushes underneath and loose magnets on their periphery, causing them to spend more time at locations with more neighbors." The experimental platform was supplemented by precise computer simulations led by Georgia Tech physics student Shengkai Li, as a way to study aspects of the system inconvenient to study in the lab.