center for systems

& synthetic biology

an NIGMS national systems biology center


Kilobots come to the classroom!

October 7, 2014

 In the graduate level Cell Biology course at UCSF, Director Wendell Lim adapted the Center's new swarm of Kilobot robots to illustrate collectives of molecules or cells.


Using an algorithm of self-organizing pattern formation for the robots developed during the Kilobots workshop hosted by the Center in August, Lim demonstrated the behavior of these programmed robots and contrasted what happens when they are arrayed together versus apart. Not giving the details of the algorithm to the students, they were broken up into small groups with their own small swarm and allowed to experimentally try to determine the algorithm the robots were using.


The students were able to discover many of the parameters governing the Kilobot activity, sketching out what some of the functions should look like. This first effort in the classroom has ignited the interest in using Kilobots and we hope to develop modules or mini-courses that incorporate both more representations of biological activities as well as more opportunity to program the robots hands-on.