Amick Sollenberger

“Manual sampling in maize and development of an earthworm-inspired robot for soil sensing”

Project Summary:

A plant’s roots and surrounding soil provide valuable information on plant and soil heath that cannot be observed from the surface. Rovers, drones, and remote sensing have become invaluable tools for plant phenotyping and field research in recent years. However, below-ground data collection remains a manual task. We aim to investigate the common practices of belowground phenotyping and develop a robotic solution to underground sensing. Our goal is a steerable burrowing soft-robotic worm capable of gathering a variety of data on soil health and rhizosphere properties. To this end, we successfully developed gait patterns for steering and belowground locomotion of a pneumatic earthworm robot and began the implementation of assorted sensors for data collection.


My Experience:

As an intern in Gore Lab and Shepherd lab, I got to experience the ups and downs of researchers in different fields working towards a common goal. In the Gore lab, I participated in field phenotyping and collection, receiving knowledge of common procedures and challenges of field work. In Shepherd lab, I got to apply this information, along with my engineering background towards the development of a soft robot. This summer gave me insight into what a future in academia might look like and inspired my interest in new areas of research that I hope to explore in the future. I learned a great deal about communication and gained confidence in my knowledge and abilities which will serve me well going forward. I am grateful to have had this opportunity and to all who have given me guidance this summer, particularly my mentors, Erin Farmer and Anand Kumar Mishra.