images/profile/punpongsanon

Email:
nisser _at_ mit _dot_ edu

Martin Nisser

PhD Candidate in the HCI Engineering Group at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. My research advisor is Professor Stefanie Mueller. I hold degrees from MIT, ETH Zurich, and The University of Edinburgh, and previously held appointments at Tesla Motors, Harvard University and the European Space Agency. I am a Sweden-America fellow, a Bernard Gold fellow, and have appeared in media including BBC News, Forbes, The Washington Post, NASA TV, and Popular Science.

Research Interests:
I'm interested in developing fabrication methods to make hardware - from structures to robots - that is inexpensive, rapid, and customizable to individual needs and interests. While AI is making great strides in the digital realm, I think fabrication paradigms like self-assembly, self-folding, and 3D printing hold the keys to economically embodying these new tools in the physical realm in a way that's accessible to people at large. With actuation a central challenge to these frameworks, I also leverage the favorable dynamics of microgravity environments to incubate technologies, explore near-term in-space manufacturing applications, and to build geometries that remain difficult or intractable to make here on earth.

Teaching Interests:
I also develop education and research programs toward increasing the opportunity to work on these kinds of problems. As a member of The Educational Justice Institute I co-launched and co-instruct Brave Behind Bars, a university-accredited computer science and self-efficacy program for incarcerated women and men. I am an MIT AI mentor, an MIT advanced undergraduate research mentor, and helped launch the METEOR program for underrepresented postdocs as part of CSAIL's graduate student council.

Updates
11-10-2022:
Interviewed on NASA TV's Live ISS launch commentary
11-10-2022:
Interviewed for SpaceX's CRS-26 Media Teleconference
09-13-2022:
Brave Behind Bars featured in The Washington Post
06-30-2022:
Self-assembly paper accepted to IEEE IROS '22
06-27-2022:
Progammable interfaces paper accepted to ACM UIST '22
06-20-2022:
Swarm robotics paper accepted to IEEE ANTS '22
03-23-2022:
Panelist for MIT Hack for Inclusion
03-02-2022:
ElectroVoxel featured in Popular Science, Forbes, MIT News
02-11-2022:
Co-organizing a CHI '22 workshop, SpaceCHI
02-07-2022:
ElectroVoxel accepted to ICRA '22.
01-19-2022:
Prison work featured in MIT News & NPR
08-20-2021:
Profile in MIT News

Research projects


ANTS22
An Approach Based on Particle Swarm Optimization for Inspection of Spacecraft Hulls by a Swarm of Miniaturized Robots
Publication Venue: ANTS (2022) pdf doi
Advisor: Radhika Nagpal, Princeton University. Project Lead: Bahar Haghighat.

This project proposes the use of a swarm of miniaturized, vibration-sensing robots as a mobile sensor network. We utilize distributed inspection algorithms based on bio-inspired particle swarm optimization and evolutionary algorithm niching techniques to enumerate and localize a priori unknown vibration sources on the 2.5D hull of a spacecraft surface. We deploy the algorithms in simulation and on a fleet of cm-scale wheeled robots, finally demonstrating their operation in microgravity aboard a parabolic flight.


UIST22
Mixels: Fabricating Interfaces using Programmable Magnetic Pixels
Publication Venue: UIST (2022) pdf doi youtube
Advisors: Stefanie Mueller, MIT and Ryo Suzuki, University of Calgary.

This project introduces a fabrication platform for programmable magnetic pixels that can be rapidly fabricated using an electromagnetic printhead. Our custom printhead clips onto a standard 3D printer and can both write and read magnetic pixel values from magnetic material. We provide a user interface that lets user specify the high-level magnetic behavior and that computes the underlying magnetic pixel assignments and fabrication instructions to program a magnetic surface.


IROS22
Selective Self-Assembly using Re-Programmable Magnetic Pixels
Publication Venue: IROS (2022) pdf youtube
Advisors: Stefanie Mueller, MIT and Ryo Suzuki, University of Calgary.

This project introduces a method to generate highly selective encodings that can be magnetically "programmed" onto physical modules to enable them to self-assemble in chosen configurations. We generate these encodings based on Hadamard matrices, and show how to design the faces of modules to be maximally attractive to their intended mate, while remaining maximally agnostic to other faces. We derive guarantees on these bounds, and verify their attraction and agnosticism experimentally. Using cubic modules whose faces have been covered in soft magnetic material, we show how inexpensive, passive modules with planar faces can be used to selectively self-assemble into target shapes without geometric guides.


ICRA22
ElectroVoxel: Electromagnetically Actuated Pivoting for Scalable Modular Self-Reconfigurable Robots
Publication Venue: ICRA (2022) pdf doi youtube Press Videos: youtube youtube
Advisors: Stefanie Mueller, MIT and Ryo Suzuki, University of Calgary

ElectroVoxel is a cube-based reconfigurable robot that utilizes an electromagnet-based actuation framework to reconfigure in three dimensions via pivoting. Electromagnets embedded into the edges of each cube - or voxel - create repulsive or attractive forces to drive pivoting maneuvers or create hinges, respectively. We demonstrate self-reconfiguration on an air-table in the lab, and in microgravity on a parabolic flight.


CHI21
LaserFactory: An Electromechanical Assembly and Fabrication Platform Integrated with a Laser Cutter to make Functional Devices and Robots
Publication Venue: CHI (2021) pdf doi youtube Press video: youtube
Advisors: Steve Hodges, Microsoft Research Cambridge and Stefanie Mueller, MIT

LaserFactory is an integrated fabrication process that augments a commercially available fabrication machine to support the manufacture of fully functioning devices and robots without human intervention. In addition to creating 2D and 3D mechanical structures, LaserFactory creates conductive circuit traces with arbitrary geometries, picks-and-places electronic and electromechanical components, and solders them in place.


CHI20
Curveboards: Integrating Breadboards into Physical Objects to Prototype Function in the Context of Form
Publication Venue: CHI (2020) pdf doi youtube
Advisor: Stefanie Mueller, MIT

CurveBoards are breadboards integrated into physical objects. In contrast to traditional breadboards, CurveBoards better preserve the object's look and feel while maintaining circuit fluidity, which enables designers to exchange and reposition components during design iteration. We provide an interactive editor that enables users to convert 3D models into CurveBoards and introduce a method to fabricate Curveboards using conductive silicone.


flui20
Fluifiber: Interweaving Moving Bodies over Distance via Programmable Tensegrity
Exhibition: Ars Electronica (2020) doi
Advisor: Hiroshi Ishii, MIT

Aspects of human movement that are unobserved visually, such as pressure and muscular tension, are represented by a programmable tensegrity structure that records and replays a dancer's body movements. We hypothesize that the nervous system, given abstract information in the form of a tangible dancing tensegrity structure, will endeavor to compensate for absent information in order to understand the body's movement in full.


TEI19
Sequential Support: 3D Printing Dissolvable Support Material for Time-Dependent Mechanisms
Publication Venue: TEI (2019) pdf doi youtube
Advisor: Stefanie Mueller, MIT

We leverage the dissolution of standard support material (PVA) to enable applications beyond its traditional use case as a support structure for 3D prints. These include time-dependent mechanisms such as the timed release of scents from a 3D-printed structure sequentially overnight. To this end, we build a custom 3D editor plugin including a kinetic Monte Carlo simulation to create statistically accurate simulations for how the material dissolves over time.


ists17
An Electromagnetically Actuated, Self-Reconfigurable Space Structure
Publication Venue: ISTS (2017) pdf
Advisor: Dario Izzo, European Space Agency

We present a conceptual framework for achieving on-orbit formation of reconfigurable space structures using individually actuated electromagnets embedded in the edges of large swarms of miniature spacecraft that are based on the PocketQube.


iros16
Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding of Autonomous Robot Collectives
Publication Venue: IROS (2016) pdf doi youtube
Advisor: Robert Wood, Harvard University

Design and fabrication of self-folding structures and robots. Starting with building composite materials from shape memory polymers, flexible PCBs and resistive heating elements, we implemented a controller to allow flat laminates to autonomously self-fold into arbitrary 3D configurations.


iros16
Visual Inertial Compassing
Research project (ETH Zurich, 2014). pdf
Advisor: Roland Siegwart, ETH Zurich

Heading estimation using visual-inertial sensor fusion. Using low-cost IMUs and a stereo camera system, I developed algorithms to estimate a heading of North without a magnetometer by leveraging the rotation of the Earth using a Kalman Filter and a Full Batch Optimizer.


iros16
Modelling Bounding Gaits for a Quadrupedal Robot
Research project (in collaboration with Marius Fehr and Wilson Ko, ETH Zurich, 2013).
Advisor: Fumiya Iida, ETH Zurich (now Cambridge University)

In this project, the bounding gait of a quadrepdal robot was modelled, dividing each step into 3 phases; a lift-off phase, an aerial phase and a touch-down phase. The equations of motion are derived in 2 dimensions and solved in order to simulate several steps of the gait. Parallel to this, a 3d model of the bounding quadruped was simulated in a physics engine for comparison.

Teaching


superurop
MIT Advanced Undergaduate Research Opportunities Program (SuperUROP)
Teaching Assistant, Spring 2022 doi

The Advanced Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, better known as SuperUROP, is designed for MIT juniors and seniors seeking an advanced research experience working closely with a faculty advisor and producing publication-worthy results. As a Teaching Assistant for the program, I mentor 16 students on their research, providing guidance on technical problems, research direction, technical writing and communication.


BBB
Brave Behind Bars
Co-founder, Co-instructor, Summer 2022, 2021 doi

Brave Behind Bars is a college-accredited introductory computer science and career-readiness program for incarcerated women that I launched out of MIT's The Education Justice Institute with fellow graduate student Marisa Gaetz. Instructed both online and in-person with help from our non-profit collaborator Brave Course, our Summer '21 pilot program brought together 30 women from four correctional facilities across New England. In 2022, we expanded our program to men and women, and our mixed-gender classrooms of 55 students were taught by 18 Harvard- and MIT-affiliated coaches alongside formerly incarcerated graduates of our pilot program. Together, our students develop skills in digital literacy, web design, and career-readiness, building websites to help address some of society's most pressing issues.


EIT
Engineering Interactive Technologies
Teaching Assistant, Fall 2017 doi

Engineering Interactive Technologies is an MIT course that provides instruction in building cutting-edge interactive technologies, explains the underlying engineering concepts, and shows how those technologies evolved over time. Students use a studio format for constructing software and hardware prototypes. Topics include interactive technologies, such as multi-touch, augmented reality, haptics, wearables, and shape-changing interfaces. In a group project, students build their own interactive hardware/software prototypes and present them in a live demo at the end of term.

Publications


FULL PAPERS


  • Bahar Haghighat, Johannes Boghaert, Zev Minsky-Primus, Julia Ebert, Fangzheng Liu, Martin Nisser, Ariel Ekblaw, Radhika Nagpal. "An Approach Based on Particle Swarm Optimization for Inspection of Spacecraft Hulls by a Swarm of Miniaturized Robots", In Proceedings of ANTS 2022.

  • Martin Nisser, Yashaswini Makaram, Lucian Covarrubias, Amadou Bah, Faraz Faruqi, Ryo Suzuki, Stefanie Mueller. "Mixels: Fabricating Interfaces using Programmable Magnetic Pixels", [To appear] In Proceedings of UIST 2022.

  • Martin Nisser, Yashaswini Makaram, Faraz Faruqi, Ryo Suzuki, Stefanie Mueller. "Selective Self-Assembly using Re-Programmable Magnetic Pixels", [To appear] In Proceedings of IROS 2022.

  • Martin Nisser, Leon Cheng, Yashaswini Makaram, Ryo Suzuki, Stefanie Mueller. "ElectroVoxel: Electromagnetically Actuated Pivoting for Scalable Modular Self-Reconfigurable Robots", In Proceedings of ICRA 2022.

  • Martin Nisser, Christina Chen Liao, Yuchen Chai, Aradhana Adhikari, Steve Hodges, Stefanie Mueller, "LaserFactory: An Electromechanical Assembly and Fabrication Platform Integrated with a Laser Cutter to make Functional Devices and Robots", In Proceedings of CHI 2021.

  • Junyi Zhu, Lotta-Gili Blumberg, Yunyi Zhu, Martin Nisser, Ethan Levi Carlson, Xin Wen, Kevin Shum, Jessica Ayeley Quaye, Stefanie Mueller, "CurveBoards: Integrating Breadboards into Physical Objects to Prototype Function in the Context of Form", In Proceedings of CHI 2020, Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA, April 2020.

  • Martin Nisser, Junyi Zhu, Tianye Chen, Katarina Bulovic, Parinya Punpongsanon, Stefanie Mueller, “Sequential Support: 3D Printing Dissolvable Support Material for Time-Dependent Mechanisms,” in Proceedings of TEI 2019, Tempe, Arizona, March 2019.

  • Martin Nisser, Andreas Borggraefe and Dario Izzo, “An Electromagnetically Actuated, Self-Reconfigurable Space Structure,” the 31st International Symposium on Space Technology and Science, Matsuyama, Japan, June 2017.

  • M. E. W. Nisser, S. M. Felton, M. T. Tolley, M. Rubenstein and R. J. Wood, “Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding of Autonomous Robot Collectives,” IEEE/RSJ Int. Conf. on Intelligent Robots and Systems, Daejeon, South Korea, October 2016.

    SHORT PAPERS, DEMOS, POSTERS & WORKSHOPS


  • Martin Nisser, Yashaswini Makaram, Ryo Suzuki, Stefanie Mueller. "Stochastic Self-Assembly with Magnetically Re-programmable Voxels". Demo, ACM SCF 2021.

  • Martin Nisser, Leon Cheng, Yashaswini Makaram, Ryo Suzuki, Stefanie Mueller, "Programmable Polarities: Actuating Interactive Prototypes with Programmable Electromagnets", Demo, ACM UIST 2021.

  • Martin Nisser, Ryo Suzuki, Stefanie Mueller, "Reconfigurable Structures for Rapid Prototyping in Microgravity", Extended Abstract & Poster, SpaceCHI, ACM CHI 2021.

  • Junyi Zhu, Lotta-Gili Blumberg, Yunyi Zhu, Martin Nisser, Ethan Levi Carlson, Xin Wen, Kevin Shum, Jessica Ayeley Quaye, Stefanie Mueller. CurveBoards: Integrating Breadboards into Physical Objects to Prototype Function in the Context of Form. Demo, ACM CHI 2020.

  • Martin Nisser, Junyi Zhu, Tianye Chen, Katarina Bulovic, Parinya Punpongsanon Stefanie Mueller. Demonstration of Sequential Support: 3D Printing Dissolvable Support Material for Time-Dependent Mechanisms. Poster, ACM SCF 2019.

    Academic Service


    ORGANIZING

    SpaceCHI '22 - Organizing committee for SpaceCHI Workshop at ACM CHI '22
    MUM '21 - Program committee for Posters Track at ACM MUM '21
    MIT TEJI '20 - Member & Project Co-lead at the MIT Educational Justice Institute
    CPGSC '20 - Inaugural Member, MIT CSAIL Postdoc and Graduate Student Council
    UIST '18 - Student Volunteer for Program Committee, ACM UIST '20



    REVIEWING

    SIGGRAPH Asia - Reviewer for SIGGRAPH Asia '22
    IEEE ICRA - Reviewer for IEEE ICRA '22
    IEEE IROS - Reviewer for IEEE IROS '22
    ACM UIST - Reviewer for ACM UIST '18, '22
    ACM CHI - Reviewer for ACM CHI '21, '22

    Recognition


    AWARDS/GRANTS


    Priscilla King Gray Award for Public Service (2022)
    Awarded to a student for exceptional contributions to public service.



    Thomas G. Stockham, Jr. and Bernard Gold Fellowship (2022)
    Awarded to a student who has made signifcant contributions to the field of signal processing while contributing to extraordinary teaching and mentoring at MIT.



    MIT Teaching Award - The Educational Justice Institute (2021)
    For contributions to delivering educational programming to incarcerated students.



    The Sweden America Foundation (2021)
    Fellowship in support of doctoral research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (2020)
    Scholarship in Engineering Sciences in support of doctoral research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



    Hans Werth‌én Foundation Fellowship (2020)
    Scholarship awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering in support of doctoral research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



    The Blanceflor Boncompagni Ludovisi, née Bildt Scholarship (2017)
    Granted in support of doctoral research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



    Funch's Scholarship (2014)
    Granted in support of research conducted at Harvard University.



    IMechE Best Student Award (2013)
    Awarded by the University of Edinburgh on behalf of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers to the best performing student of the graduating class.






    INVITED TALKS


    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
    APL Space Manufacturing Seminar (07/2022)

    Harvard University
    Harvard Microrobotics Lab (07/2022)

    IEEE ICRA
    Workshop on Modular, Self-Reconfigurable Robots (05/2022)

    MIT Media Lab
    Beyond the Cradle (04/2022)

    MIT Hack for Inclusion
    Non-Profit Education Panelist (04/2022)

    Audible
    Invited speaker (04/2022)

    European Space Agency
    Advanced Concepts Team (03/2022)


    MIT Horizons
    Manufacturing Technology Seminar (04/2021)
    PRESS

    NASA TV
    Interviewed Live at Kennedy Space Center for NASA TV's SpaceX CRS-26 Launch Commentary as Science Lead for MIT's ISS-bound Payload.

    SpaceX / NASA Media Telecon
    Interviewed in NASA's SpaceX CRS-26 Media Telecon , press release and highlight reel as Science Lead for MIT's ISS-bound fabrication platform.

    The Washington Post
    Coverage in WaPo about Brave Behind Bars, a prison education program I cofounded

    Forbes
    Interview in Forbes for Electrovoxel. Also in the associated Tech First article and podcast

    Popular Science
    Interview in Popular Science about ElectroVoxel

    Engadget
    ElectroVoxel featured in Engadget

    MIT News
    ElectroVoxel featured in MIT News

    IEEE Spectrum
    ElectroVoxel featured in IEEE Spectrum

    Hackster.io
    ElectroVoxel featured on Hackster.io

    Arduino Blog
    ElectroVoxel featured on the Arduino Blog

    NPR
    Prison Education Initiative, BBB, featured on GBH, Boston's local National Public Radio

    MIT News
    Prison Education Initiative, BBB, featured in MIT News

    BBC News
    Interview for LaserFactory on BBC. Also viewable on BBC iPlayer , Click , and YouTube.

    WeVolver
    Interview for LaserFactory on WeVolver. Available as an article and as a podcast.

    MIT News
    LaserFactory featured in MIT News

    Yahoo News
    LaserFactory featured in Yahoo News

    VentureBeat
    LaserFactory featured in VentureBeat

    Techcrunch
    LaserFactory featured in Techcrunch

    Engadget
    LaserFactory featured in Engadget

    IEEE Spectrum
    LaserFactory featured in IEEE Spectrum

    Ars Electronica
    Fluifiber project featured in the Kepler's Gardens exhibit

    MIT News
    Curveboards featured in MIT News

    ACM Tech News
    Curveboards featured in ACM Tech News

    IEEE Spectrum
    Master’s thesis published at IROS featured in IEEE Spectrum


    Experience


    Education
    PhD Computer Science (06/2019 - Current)
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Degree GPA: 5.0/5.0
    Supervisor: Prof. Stefanie Mueller.
    Area of Concentration: Robotics and fabrication.

    SM Computer Science (09/2017 - 06/2019)
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Degree GPA: 5.0/5.0
    Supervisor: Prof. Stefanie Mueller.
    Area of Concentration: Artifical Intelligence.

    Visiting Research Scholar (09/2014 - 09/2015)
    Harvard University
    Supervisor: Prof. Robert Wood.
    Project: Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding of Autonomous Robot Collectives.

    MSc Robotics, Systems and Control (09/2013 - 10/2015)
    ETH Zurich
    Degree GPA: 5.5/6
    Supervisors: Prof. Roland Siegwart and Prof. Bradley Nelson.
    Thesis: Feedback-Controlled Self-Folding with Shape Memory Composites.

    BEng Mechanical Engineering with Renewable Energy (09/2009 - 06/2013)
    University of Edinburgh
    Degree class: First Class Honours.
    Supervisor: Prof. Frank Mill.
    Thesis: Design and Optimization of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.


    Employment
    Young Graduate Trainee (09/2016 - 08/2017)
    European Space Agency, Advanced Concepts Team
    Research area: Morphing Space Structures.

    Project Intern (02/2016 - 07/2016)
    Tesla Motors, Supercharging Team
    Working area: Financial forecasting and charging trends analysis.


    Mentored students


    Graduate
    Amadou Bah (MEng, Fall 2021 - Spring 2022)
    Project: Reconfigurable Robots

    Leon Chen (MEng, Spring 2021 - Summer 2021)
    Project: Reconfigurable Robots

    Christina Liao (MEng, Summer 2019 - Spring 2020)
    Project: LaserFactory (CHI '21)
    First place recipient of the Charles & Jennifer Johnson Computer Science MEng Thesis Award

    YuChen Chai (Visiting researcher, Tsinghua University, Fall 2019 - Spring 2020)
    Project: LaserFactory (CHI '21)

    Aradhana Adhikari (MEng, Fall 2019 - Spring 2020)
    Project: LaserFactory (CHI '21)


    Undergraduate
    Timothy Grazier (UROP, Summer 2022)
    Project: Microgravity extrusion

    Connor Kaminska (UROP, Summer 2022)
    Project: Microgravity extrusion

    Xinyi Yang (Harvard visiting student, Summer 2022)
    Project: Computational origami for self-folding

    Benjamin Neal (Harvard visiting student, Summer 2022)
    Project: Heterogenous robots

    Ahmad Taka (UROP, Summer 2022)
    Project: Heterogenous robots

    Christopher Evagora (UROP, Summer 2022)
    Project: Reconfigurable robots

    William Reinkensmeyer (UROP, Spring 2022)
    Project: Microgravity Extrusion

    Andrew Shin (UROP, Spring 2022)
    Project: Microgravity Extrusion

    Raiphy Jerez (UROP, Spring 2022)
    Project: Reconfigurable Robots

    Lucian Covarrubias (UROP, Fall 2021)
    Project: Programmable Polarities

    Michael Lu (UROP, Fall 2021)
    Project: Reconfigurable Robots

    Yashaswini Makaram (UROP, Spring 2021 - Fall 2021)
    Project: Reconfigurable Robots

    Natalie Muradyan (UROP, Spring 2021)
    Project: Microgravity Extrusion

    Aiden Padilla (UROP, Spring 2021)
    Project: Microgravity Extrusion

    Marvin Zetina-Jimenez (UROP, Summer 2020)
    Project: Robot User Interfaces

    Mojolaoluwa Oke (UROP, Summer 2019)
    Project: LaserFactory (CHI '21)

    Tianye Chen (UROP, Spring 2018)
    Project: Sequential Support (TEI '19)

    Katarina Bulovic (UROP,Spring 2018 - Summer 2018)
    Project: Sequential Support (TEI '19)