NSF Convergence Accelerator Track M: Slime Mold Inspired Self-Assembling Conveyor System for Flood Response

Project: Research project

Project Details


This convergent research project will develop an innovative slime-mold inspired robotic system designed to autonomously construct a floating conveyor network that will transport pallets of goods in flooded urban environments. The primary goal of this project is to address the escalating threat of flooding in the New York City area. This flooding has been exacerbated by climate change and currently results in over one hundred million dollars in damages annually. Despite the significant economic and societal impact of these events, existing technologies lack effective tools for responsive action. The proposed robotic system has the potential to revolutionize flood response, empowering rescue workers to operate more efficiently, saving lives and safeguarding critical infrastructure.The researchers draw inspiration from slime molds, which often form nutrient-transport networks over bodies of water. These organisms offer a compelling behavioral model for goods delivery in flooded regions. The researchers will leverage their insights from previous research to craft a bio-inspired robot algorithm that will enable hundreds of robot “tiles” to re-arrange themselves to form a conveyor system capable of transporting palletized goods in flooded areas. This work will involve first distilling the algorithmic underpinnings of the slime mold behavior and translating these behaviors into swarm robot algorithms for adaptive transport network growth. The researchers will also develop and build robots capable of executing this algorithm and of transporting goods and will demonstrate algorithm behaviors using a small swarm of robot prototypes. Finally, the researchers will investigate how to best integrate this robotic system into existing disaster relief workflows through a series of focus groups and user studies. The overall deliverable of this project will be a full-stack realization of a user-focused robotic self-assembling system that operates based on network growth principles observed in nature.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Effective start/end date1/15/2412/31/24


  • National Science Foundation: $650,000.00


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