center for systems

& synthetic biology

an NIGMS national systems biology center


Hacking Kilobots and Cells: Learning to program ‘biological’ behavior in robotic and cellular systems

January 29, 2015

As part of the UCSF Byers Lecture event, the Center (in partnership with Wendell Lim's Lab and Mesoscope@UCSF) presented an series of displays highlighting our swarm robots, the Kilobots, and how they can be used to model biological behaviors. 


The exhibits featured a range of demonstrations of the kilobots: from simple programs where they communicate with one another to flash their lights in synchrony, to more complicated simulations where they use communication to form complex patterns in relationship to one another. These programs are used to make robots imitate cells or organisms -- what if we programmed cells to be more like robots? In a last table of the exhibit, researchers from the Lim Lab talked about their efforts to program immune cells from the body, called T cells, to target specific cancer cells. Visitors were able to get hands-on with an interactive display where they engineered their own T cell receptor and tested whether or not it could kill our cancer cells.


We're looking forward to making this event available for all age levels and backgrounds, and further deploying it at local science museums and events. Stay tuned!