Swarm Garden brings robotic flowers to life

By Aaron Nathans, Office of Engineering Communications

June 10, 2024

Inspired by nature, architecture and swarm intelligence, two Princeton Engineering professors created a wall of robotic “flowers” that visitors interacted with during a recent exhibition.

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The Swarm Garden was created in the labs of Radhika Nagpal, Norman R. Augustine ’57 *59 Professor in Engineering, and Sigrid Adriaenssens, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

This is Nagpal and Adriaenssens’ first collaboration, and for Nagpal this is also her first project that explicitly lies on the art-engineering intersection. Merihan Alhafnawi, a postdoctoral research associate in Nagpal’s lab, led the project in close collaboration with Lucia Stein-Montalvo, a postdoc in Adriaenssens’ group.

In this video, Adriaenssens explains how the model flowers bloom through buckling technology, and Nagpal discusses how the Swarm Garden demonstrates a way for robots to be embedded in our environment. The exhibit, which also featured a student dance performance, was held April 9 in the Lewis Arts Complex Colab. The project was supported in part by a grant from CreativeX, a Princeton faculty-led initiative for work at the intersection of engineering and the arts.

Students who participated included Jad Bendarkawi ’25, electricial and computer engineering, and Yenet Tafesse ’24, computer science. They built most of the modules and a wearable device that allowed dancers to better interact with the robotic flowers.