ECE Student Spotlight: Tommy Anton Goes to Singapore!

This spring, Tommy Anton, a recent graduate of the Fok WAVE Lab, had the unique opportunity to attend a research conference in Singapore. Tommy will be continuing his studies as a graduate student in Dr. Fok’s lab to pursue his master’s degree. Read about Tommy’s experience below.

My name is Tommy Anton and I’ve been in Dr. Fok’s WAVE Lab since Fall 2022. I started to research Soft Robotics and have had the opportunity to assist in several great projects. In November of last year, we submitted a paper to the International Soft Robotics conference, RoboSoft, with the hopes of being able to present the lab’s first paper in soft robotics. Early 2023 we discovered that our paper was accepted, and we were invited to present it at the conference’s location this year, Singapore.

Soft Robotics is the field of robotics where researchers attempt to achieve complex locomotion and actuation with primarily soft and pliable materials. The paper talks about a silicone-shelled donut-shaped gripper with polyester fiber fill inside. We looked at various variables that could increase the effectiveness of the gripper including fiberfill mass, donut thickness, and donut shape.

RoboSoft 2023 was in early April and the co-authors were unable to join the conference, so I attended alone. It was my first time out of the continent, and I was very nervous about experiencing a vastly new environment and culture. Singapore turned out to be very accommodating for foreigners and with English being one of their official languages it was easier than I thought to travel and find my way around. I was surprised by how easy it was to get around Singapore with the train system being cheap, fast, and very simple to navigate.

The conference was held at the Marina Bay Sands and involved a rotation of oral/poster presentations and live demos. I was involved in the poster section of the conference and had the opportunity to present our research and answer questions from participants. I also had the chance to view other students’ work and see the inspiring research they are producing. Live demos were held by Singapore Universities working in soft robotics and they showed off some of their soft robots. These robots included various grippers, actuators, and a claw machine. It was amazing to talk and collaborate with others researching similar ideas and it gave me new initiative for my research.

Outside of the conference, I was able to try some amazing food and see some of Singapore’s most well-known sites. I had some traditional Singapore food which included Satey, Chili Crab, and even Jellyfish. Outside of the food, I was able to see the Merlion Fountain, Gardens by the bay, and was able to visit Chinatown one day.

Overall, this was an amazing experience, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go. I was able to graduate in the spring of 2023 and am pursuing my master’s in electrical engineering in Dr. Fok’s lab post-graduation. I would like to shoutout to Cole Sterk, Olivia Kim, and Dr. Fok for their work on the paper and I am excited about what we can accomplish in the future. RoboSoft 2024 will be located in San Diego, California and the WAVE lab will be planning to go.

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