Martin Nisser

PhD student in the HCI Engineering Group at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. My research advisor is Professor Stefanie Mueller.

Research interests:
I'm interested in developing advanced and inexpensive methods to fabricate robots in order to make robotics both accessible and useful to people at large. To that end, I explore techniques such as self-assembly, origami-inspired self-folding, and 3D printing. In developing these methods, I also leverage microgravity environments for in-space manufacturing of geometries that remain difficult or intractable to make on earth.

Academic interests:
I also develop education and research programs toward increasing the opportunity to work on these kinds of problems. I am an MIT AI mentor, helped launch the METEOR program for underrepresented postdocs as part of CSAIL's graduate student council, and 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.

I completed a BEng in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, a MSc in Robotics, Systems and Control at ETH Zurich, and a SM in Computer Science at MIT. Before starting my PhD, I was a visiting researcher at Harvard University, interned at Tesla, and was a graduate trainee in the Advanced Concepts Team at the European Space Agency.
Completed Parabolic Flight Campaign.
LaserFactory accepted to CHI '21.
Curveboards accepted to CHI '20.
Sequential Support accepted to TEI '19.
Attended CHI '18 in Montreal.

Research projects

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.



  • 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.



    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.


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

    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

    LaserFactory featured in VentureBeat

    LaserFactory featured in Techcrunch

    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


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

    Visiting Researcher (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.

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

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

    Mentored students

    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)

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

    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, Summer 2018)
    Project: Sequential Support (TEI '19)