Kevin Ma

I am a robotics researcher with a focus on the development of new designs and manufacturing methods for robots. Currently, I am a Research Fellow with the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. I received my Ph.D. in Engineering Sciences from Harvard in 2015 and my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Berkeley in 2010.

I'm interested in advanced manufacturing and design in the service of new robotic functionalities and devices, including a) mobile robots for exploration and manipulation in agriculture, space, and emergency response contexts and b) highly-responsive, reconfigurable robotic systems for new human-computer interfaces (i.e. smart textiles, VR haptics). At least at the smaller scales, I have observed a close link between what a robot is capable of and how it is constructed.

I have worked extensively on the world's first biologically-inspired, insect-scale flying robot (the Robobee) and have investigated microengineering techniques for microscale devices and system modeling and analysis of flapping wing flight.

Research projects

Actuation for multi-dof reconfigurable robotic systems
Having worked extensively with folding techniques and laminate composite manufacturing, I found an opportunity to drastically reduce the cost of control and actuation for multi-degree-of-freedom systems. I've been developing a mechanism for scalably distributing actuation energy to many degrees of freedom in a micro/mesoscale robotic system. (in progress)
I designed and constructed the world's smallest flying robot, known as the Robobee—a fully-integrated robotic flying vehicle the size of a bumblebee and using flapping wings to fly like the real insect.
"Pop-up" manufacturing and the Wright FLyer
To support the development of the Robobee, we developed a new manufacturing process for constructing articulating, microscale mechanisms in a scalable manner. Meticulously-designed laminate composites can unfold and "pop-up" like children's pop-up book, with minimal assembly degrees of freedom. As a demonstration, I created the world's smallest scaled-model of the 1903 Wright Flyer.

Selected publications

Fun stuff

Paper craft
Various kirigami (cutting only) paper models.
I sculpt in various mediums for fun.