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Robert MacCurdy

Assistant Professor

Robert MacCurdy is an assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder where he leads the Matter Assembly Computation Lab (MACLab). He is developing new tools to automatically design and manufacture robots, and automated methods to study animal behavior in the wild. Rob did his PhD work with Hod Lipson at Cornell University and his postdoctoral work at MIT with Daniela Rus. Funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and a Liebmann Fund fellowship, his doctoral work demonstrated systems capable of automatically assembling functional electromechanical devices, with the goal of printing robots that literally walk out of the printer. During this time he also showed how to create very low-cost, low power, and low-mass radiofrequency tags, and developed an automated tracking system based on time-of-flight measurements. He holds a B.A. in Physics from Ithaca College, a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University, and an M.S. and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University.


Lawrence Smith

PhD Student

Lawrence is a PhD student working on automated design of soft robots. He builds finite element and material point method models of continuum mechanics problems.

He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2014 and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Colorado Boulder in 2019. In the interim period Lawrence worked at an engineering consulting firm designing numerical models to predict medical device performance.

In his free time Lawrence enjoys running, frisbee golf, and playing 8-ball pool.


Brandon Hayes

PhD Student

Brandon received a double major in biomedical engineering and microelectronics engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology. There, his interests centered around microfluidics and multi-physics processes. After a few internships out west in Oregon, Brandon decided to head out to Colorado for grad school as well as the mountains. Brandon’s research focus is on combining additive manufacturing with microfluidics as well as understanding and applications of thermal bubble-driven micro-pumps for microfluidics. In his free time, Brandon can likely be found swimming, hiking, exploring, and biking around in the nearby mountains (with Flagstaff being his current favorite for a quick evening ride).


Vidyacharan G. Venkata

PhD Student

Vidyacharan (VC) is a PhD student developing new materials for manufacturing soft robots and devices through multi-material inkjet printing. He works at the intersection of materials science and robotics to push machines towards the next stage of their evolution.

He earned his M.S in Mechanical Engineering from CU Boulder in 2018 during which he co-authored multiple papers on HASEL soft actuators. Prior to that, he worked as a researcher at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on developing flexible electrochemical sensors for toxic gas detection. He earned his B.Tech in Mechatronics in 2016 from SASTRA University, India.


Rachel Billings

PhD Student

Rachel is a first year PhD student in the ECEE department and IQ Biology Program. She is interested in developing hardware and software systems for environmental conservation and ecological research purposes, with emphasis on wildlife tracking. 


She received her B.S. from the University of Florida and her M.S. from Virginia Tech, both in electrical engineering. Outside of work, Rachel likes hanging out with her dog Luna, running, backpacking, and baking.


Celesse Myles

PhD Student

Celesse is a first year PhD student interested in the mobility of soft robotics. She is currently working as a research assistant. Her current work is focused on fabricating and testing soft actuators in an effort to standardize the testing process used to characterize various types of soft actuators.


Celesse earned her B.S in Mechanical Engineering at CU Denver in 2022 while working remotely as a NASA Pathways intern at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland from 2020 to 2022.


Celesse loves basketball and is a huge Kansas City Chiefs fan. She has completed two full marathons and completed a 50 mile ultramarathon in April 2022.


PhD Student

Charles works at the intersection of design, fabrication, and automation. Particularly, he is interested in developing novel methods that leverage additive manufacturing technology to automatically construct robotic systems. His current work focuses on a volumetric modeling framework for the design and verification of multi-material 3D-printed robots. 


Charles earned his B.S. in Computer Science & Engineering from the University of Toledo in 2021. Before starting a PhD at CU, he was a research scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility. There, he developed software and controls for large-scale 3D-printing systems. 


In his free time Charles likes hiking, backpacking, and fly fishing. You can often find him wading the nearby mountain streams in search of trout.


Subhraneel Sarkar

Master's Student

Subhraneel is a Mechanical Engineering Masters student interested in fabrication and FE analysis of soft actuators. He is currently writing his thesis on print-in-place pneumatic position sensing actuators. He completed his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology, India in 2020. He has also been a part of Colorado Space Grant Consortium (CSGC GLEE team) and developed components for LunaSats-II for efficient deployment on Lunar Surface. 

He also has a passion for soccer and played for the CU Men's Clubs in 2021.

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James Phillips

Master's Student

James has a background in electrical engineering and embedded systems. His research in Maclab is focused on the RF Biotracking Project. He is currently writing his thesis for his Master's degree in Technology, Cybersecurity, and Policy. In his spare time, James snowboards, runs, travels, and climbs an occasional 14er. 

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Graham Williams

Incoming PhD Student

Graham is an incoming PhD student to CU Boulder. He is interested in the sim-to-real pipeline and its applications in augmenting the engineering design process. Through the use of multi-material additive manufacturing processes and computational design tools, he strives to reimagine the current paradigm which is tailored towards subtractive processes. By utilzing an algorithmic approach to the discovery and spatial distribution of novel materials, as well as the optimization of geomtries, Graham aims to change the fabric of modern design thinking.


Colin Smith

Master's Student

Colin Smith is a Mechanical Engineering MS student with a concentration in Robotics at the University of Colorado Boulder and an alum of California Polytechnic State University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Colin’s research focuses on mechanical design automation through the use of evolutionary algorithms and optimization techniques with applications in multi-material 3D printed soft robots. Colin’s other research activities center around the application of mechanical design and simulation, electronics design, and embedded systems software development in the pursuit of advancing soft robotics technology.

MAC Lab Alumni


Travis Hainsworth

PhD Student and Teaching Professor at Western Colorado University

Travis used additive manufacturing to develop process that can create more complex soft robots. Through the use of additive manufacturing, designs and geometries that would be near impossible to create with conventional manufacturing methods are now easy to make. He is completing a PhD and he earned his M.S and B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah. There he studied how emotive gaits could be applied to a quadrupedal robot. He is now a teaching professor at Western Colorado University.

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Aaditya Pore

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Aaditya is a second-year undergraduate student studying Aerospace Engineering at CU Boulder. Under the guidance of Lawrence and Dr. MacCurdy through the CU SPUR program, he is working on a test bench that will be able to test pneumatic actuators. Working with MATLAB and FDM manufacturing, his goal is to establish a test bench that can provide metrics of feedback including force exerted, pressure, resistance, flow rate, and bend angles, for actuators. Outside of the MacLab, Aadi is involved in the University of Colorado Student Government, currently serving as the Legislative Council President, and is a 3D Printing Student Assistant for the ATLAS Institute.


Ashton Croft

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ashton is a third year undergraduate Aerospace Engineering student at the University of Colorado Boulder. His work is on investigating thermal inkjet resistors and their applications as microfluidic pumps and mixers for use in future lab-on-a-chip devices. Outside the lab, Ashton loves hiking, skiing, and driving classic cars.


Wangcong Xuan

Undergraduate Research Assistant

I’m a Computer Science and Data Science undergraduate student at CU Boulder. I was working on the server construction, DNS and software deployment. It’s really nice to have the chance work in MaC Lab. I had a wonderful time working with Lawrence, Lev in the lab. We are responsible for website construction and software deployment together. During this period, Lawrence taught me a lot of MATLAB skills and I also learned a considerable part of the front-end and back-end technologies from the actual programming experience.


Marcus Tsuei

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Marcus is a visiting undergraduate studying Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania. His work at MACLAB consists of designing storage and recovery systems for 3D printing filament. Marcus enjoys looking into the intersections of cutting edge technologies and finding their applications in untraditional industries. 

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Lev Polonsky

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Bio Under Development


James Alex Hale

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Under the supervision and guidance of Dr. MacCurdy, Travis, and Lawrence, I worked with another undergrad to design, develop, create, assemble, and present a modular cyclic loading testing fixture. The fixture was to quantitatively assess lifespan and drive ongoing material and geometric optimization of multi-material additive-manufactured (MMAM) hydraulic bellows used in single-print soft material robotics. Performed design proposals and presentations, CAD design, mechanical assembly, electrical assembly, component creation and procurement, microprocessor coding, team collaboration. Continued but did not complete a similar modular test fixture for fatigue analysis of 3D-printed ball bearings.


Sebastian Alexander

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Sebastian’s time in the MAC Lab was spent supporting Travis Hainsworth’s research and development of the print-in-place, self-sensing pneumatic actuators. This included gathering data from the integrated strain gauges, characterizing their behavior, and investigating alternative materials for use in the strain gauges. Working closely with the actuators and FDM machines that bring them to life sparked an interest in mechatronics, furthered by his senior project, classwork, and personal projects. Since graduating in May 2020, Sebastian has been working in commercial product design and development, and now works as a mechanical engineer at Roccor, a local company developing state of the art deployable space structures.


Lawson Nerenberg

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lawson is currently a Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science undergrad student at CU Boulder. He utilizes experience in machine learning to research novel methods for generative design, and works towards involvement in hybrid material robotic control and design.

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Xavier Bell

High School Research Assistant

I have always been fascinated with how things worked. Whether it was the inner workings of a pen, or what made the wind blow, I wanted to learn about it. I now am most intrigued by 3D printing and aerospace engineering. My ideal world is one in which we can use both fields of engineering harmoniously. Xavier has moved on to pursue his engineering goals at MIT.


Brady Kopec

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Brady is currently a second year undergraduate student of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is excited to work with the MacCurdy Lab team in order to develop voxelization software. He looks forward to learning from his team and developing his skills as a researcher and engineer.


Zach Jordan

Master's Student

Zach is a lover of learning, who likes working in a multidisciplinary environment with the challenge of solving new and unknown problems.  He is especially interested in using novel 3D printing methods for robotics fabrication.  Outside of engineering, he loves the outdoors and extreme mountain sports and is a volunteer first responder/rescue technician for Boulder County.


Sean Connelly

Master's Student

Sean graduated with a Master's in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado - Boulder.  He worked on designing a verification software for volumetric modeling using voxels and is interested in design automation processes.  Today, Sean is a Mechanical Design Engineer at Boulder Engineer Studio working in consultant design for everything from consumer products to industrial applications.

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