Collective Construction (Harvard)

Wanda, a CILIA Demonstrator

Autonomous 3D Construction (MMMI)

the "Beatles"


Flexible Toolset for LIIBy

Misc Projects


TERMES & Collective Construction

The TERMES project started in 2009 when I joined the Self-Organizing System Research Lab with Professor Nagpal at Harvard.


Many species of termites build complex mounds several orders of magnitude larger than themselves. Inspired by these termites and their building activities, our goal was to develop a swarm construction system in which large numbers of autonomous robots build human-scale structures according to desired specifications. TERMES is a first step toward this goal of automated construction by swarms of robots.
Where Werfel focused on the theoretical algorithmic framework, I designed and produced a full robotic implementation of the system, comprising mobile robots and specialized passive bricks. The robots can autonomously manipulate bricks, use them to build structures much larger than themselves, and maneuver on these structures as well as in unstructured environments with relatively rough terrain.


Alongside the TERMES project I am also conducting studies of two African species of Macrotermes. I aim, not only, to understand their behavioral patterns, but also to develop a range of tools to help examine and gather statistical data on their construction process.


Kirstin Petersen


Designing collective behavior in a termite-inspired robot construction team.
Science 343(6172): 754-758 (2014). (link)

3D Tracking of Building Processes in Macrotermes (Pdf)
VAIB workshop, Intl. Conference on Patterns Recognition (ICPR), 2012.

TERMES: An Autonomous Robotic System for Three-Dimensional Collective Construction (Pdf)
Robotics: Science and Systems Conference (RSS), 2011

Distributed Multi-Robot Algorithms for the TERMES 3D Collective Construction System (Pdf)
Workshop, Intl. Conference on Robots and Systems (IROS), Sept 2011.

Movies: http://www.youtube.com/ssrlab0/


Selected articles covering the Science paper, 2014:
Termite-Inspired Robots Build with Bricks Science 2014
Intelligence of the swarm; robots build complex structures Boston Globe 2014
Could termite robots build future flood defences? British Science Museum (display) 2014
Robotic termites build without a boss AFP 2014
Termites inspire robot builders BBC 2014
How termite inspired robots could build for us
CNN 2014
...for a full list of articles see here.

Bug-Inspired Robots
Discover Magazine 2013
Rise of the Swarm Communications of the ACM 2013
Termite Robots - construction workers of the future Reuters TV 2012
Robots: Self-Organizing Systems Robots Podcast 2012
Inspireret af termitter Udsyn alumnemagasin fra Syddansk Universitet 2012
Watch This Little Termite Robot IEEE spectrum blog 2011
Getting robots to play together Boston Globe 2010