Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information

Higgins Laboratories, 105
Phone: +1-508-831-4857

Cagdas Onal

An integral part of a rewarding academic career is being an educator. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with students and guide their development to fulfill their potential. I enjoy teaching the fundamentals of robotics engineering, science and technology as well as training students in advanced independent research. I aim to teach students about research-based thinking and problem solving, to give them a real career choice to determine their future in further research or the industry. With its hands-on culture and students taking responsibility for their own learning, WPI is the perfect environment for my approach to education.

The common denominators that drive my passion for robotics research are two-fold. First, I am constantly inspired by the environment we live in, both natural and technological. For instance, I am amazed by the ability of birds to land on light poles with incredible ease, or that we can store and process information in smaller and smaller form factors. Second, I find it extremely motivating that my research fulfills a need. To me, research is not only about answering questions, but also asking the right ones. I particularly enjoy thinking about co-designing the robotic bodies or mechanisms with the control system.

With this inspiration and motivation, my main objective is to enable the common use of robots by the general population. I believe that robotics has yet the potential to substantially reform our lives, as the microfabrication industry or the internet did over the years. Towards this objective, I am interested in building unconventional, bio-inspired flexible systems and components to push the envelope in robotics research.

Research Interests

  • Soft Robotics
  • Printable Robotics
  • Bio-inspiration
  • Control Theory
  • Micro/Nano-Robotics


  • BS, Sabanci University, 2003
  • MS, Sabanci University, 2005
  • PhD, Carnegie Mellon University, 2009

Featured Publications

  • “An Origami-Inspired Approach to Worm Robots" (with R. Wood and D. Rus), in IEEE/ASME Transac- tions on Mechatronics, 2012. 
  • “Meshworm: A peristaltic soft robot with antagonistic nickel titanium coil actuators" (with S. Seok, R. Wood, D. Rus, and S. Kim), in IEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics, 2012. 
  • “A modular approach to soft robots" (with D. Rus), in Proceedings of the 2012 International Conference on Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics, 2012.
  • “Soft Mobile Robots with On-Board Chemical Pressure Generation" (with X. Chen, G. Whitesides, and D. Rus), in International Symposium on Robotics Research (ISRR), 2011. 
  • Atomic Force Microscopy based Nanorobotics (with H. Xie, S. Regnier, and M. Sitti), Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics (STAR) series, 71, 2011.

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