ModLab UPenn the modular robotics laboratory at the university of pennsylvania


Welcome to the Modular Robotics Lab (ModLab), a subgroup of the GRASP Lab and the Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics Department at the University of Pennsylvania under the supervision of Prof. Mark Yim.

A modular robot is a versatile system consisting of many simple modules that can change their configuration to suit a given task. These systems are inherently robust due to their redundancy, adaptability, and ability to self-repair. While originally focused on continuing research in the field of modular robotics, recent work at the lab has expanded to include micro/nano air vehicles, bio-inspired gaits, personal robots, and more. The ModLab is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from multiple disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and computer systems engineering.

Featured Projects

Variable Topology Truss

Variable Topology Trusses (VTT) are a new class of self-reconfigurable robot. A VTT consists of linear actuators for the truss members, which are joined at the truss nodes by a special reconfigurable spherical joint. The VTT can reconfigure by merging and splitting these truss nodes.


Piccolissimo is the smallest self-powered flying vehicle (to the best of our knowledge). Thanks to its passive stability, it can fly with only one actuator. This makes it simple and low cost to construct and less likely to have a component fail.


SMORES-EP is a modular robot designed and built at the University of Pennsylvania, and used by researchers at Penn and Cornell. SMORES stands for Self-Assembling MOdular Robot for Extreme Shapeshifting, and EP refers to the Electro-Permanent magnets the modules use to connect.

Recent Projects

High-Dimensional Area of Acceptance Using Discrete Methods

Physical connectors with self-aligning geometry aid in the docking process for many robotic and automatic control systems such as robotic self-reconfiguration and air-to-air refueling. This self-aligning geometry provides a wider range of acceptable error tolerance in relative pose between the two rigid objects, increasing successful docking chances. A new, more discrete flooding method for analyzing […]

Autonomous Modular Robots

The theoretical ability of modular robots to reconfigure in response to complex tasks in a priori unknown environments has frequently been cited as an advantage and remains a major motivator for work in the field. We present a modular robot system capable of autonomously completing high-level tasks by reactively reconfiguring to meet the needs of […]

Environment Augmentation with Modular Robots

We present a system enabling a modular robot to autonomously build structures in order to accomplish high-level tasks.  Building structures allows the robot to surmount large obstacles, expanding the set of tasks it can perform. This addresses a common weakness of modular robot systems, which often struggle to traverse large obstacles. This paper presents the […]

Robotic Edge-Rolling Manipulation: A Grasp Planning Approach

We present a novel robotic manipulation technique that we call robotic edge rolling. It refers to transporting a cylindrical object by rolling on its circular edge, as human workers might maneuver a gas cylinder on the ground.

A Flying Gripper Based on Cuboid Modular Robots

Grasping objects is a hard task that usually implies a dedicated mechanism (e.g arm, gripper) to the robot. Instead of adding extra components, have you thought about embedding the grasping capability to the robot itself? Have you also thought about whether we could do it flying? In the GRASP Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, […]

ModQuad: The Flying Structure that Self-Assembles in Midair

Modular robots can adapt and offer solutions in emergency scenarios, but self-assembling on the ground is a slow process. What about self-assembling in midair? In one of our recent work in GRASP Laboratory at University of Pennsylvania, we introduce ModQuad, a novel flying modular robotic structure that is able to self-assemble in midair and cooperatively […]

Object Picking through In-Hand Manipulation using Passive End-Effectors with Zero Mobility

We present a new method for picking objects through quasistatic in-hand manipulation with endeffectors that have no degrees of freedom. Our stable manipulation/ grasp planning is achieved with two contacts at fixed distance and the force of gravity, and is provably complete and correct. Practically, our robotic in-hand manipulation technique can facilitate low-cost manipulation and […]

Quori: A Community-Driven Modular Research Platform for Sociable Human-Robot Interaction

Quori is a novel, affordable, socially interactive robot platform for enabling non-contact human-robot interaction (HRI) research in both in-lab and “in the wild” experimental settings. The package will be complete with an expressive projected face, two gesturing arms,  bowing spine, and an omnidirectional base. Software is provided at the low-level to control the hardware and at the high-level, provided by Semio, to easily generate versatile social behaviors.

Configuration Recognition with Distributed Information for Modular Robots

Modular robots are usually composed of multiple blocks with uniform docking interfaces that can be transformed into different configurations. It is a significant challenge to recognize modular robot configurations composed of hundreds of modules. Given a new configuration, it is important to match it to an existing configuration and, if true, map each module to […]

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