Hi. My name is Harrison Young and I am currently a Mechanical Engineering student at Olin College of Engineering.
I took a gap year between graduating high school and my first year at college. It was the best decision I have ever made. During that year I worked 2 internships. The first was for a Drone based advertising company where I performed customer support, drone training, product enhancement and even got to work on a prototype of an upcoming product with the CEO. It was an incredibly exciting time for me. Following that, I worked at a company that builds satellite ground system products.
This was my first experience working for more than just the summer. After work I had time on my hands. I used that time to give back and mentor my high school robotics team. I also discovered my passion, the field of soft robotics (think smaller simpler versions of Baymax from Disney’s Big Hero 6). I am fascinated by seemingly simple soft robots that can perform mechanically complex tasks. I began by making simple projects that I copied off of examples on the Soft Robotics Toolkit (pretty much the bible for this up and coming field). I soon realized that the equipment and materials to enter the field are expensive, making it cost prohibitive for nearly anyone except the most ardent of enthusiasts. To help lower the technology and cost barriers, I developed a novel way to manufacture soft robotic molds that use common household objects such as cardboard, hot glue and pens. My concepts have been published on the Soft Robotics Toolkit to aid anyone looking to enter the field. I have also created Instructables and YouTube videos on the subject, hoping to expand the field and get others interested.
Additionally, during my gap year I entered the Soft Robotics Toolkit Design Competition, an international design competition used to further interest and development in the field of soft robotics. The Toolkit informed me that I needed to enter in the high school division because I had not yet started college. I created a soft robot prototype for use in search and rescue operations. It roughly mimics both the anatomy and locomotion of the earthworm; the robot effectively moves around and over obstacles up to 100% of its body height. It took first place in the competition and Discovery Channel Canada used my robot as their feature in the segment about the Soft Robotics Toolkit Design Competition.