Spring 2020:

Social Robotics

Find the application here.

Exploring the possibilities of robotics from a social standpoint.

As robots’ capabilities become increasingly advanced, we believe they will interact with us more often and play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Why should robots interact with us? How do we want to interact with them? Why should robots be more “social”? Can interacting with robots be used for a “social” good? This semester at Robotics@Berkeley, we will build technical projects that explore this exciting theme!

The applications of social robotics are vast and examples include: assisting the elderly with their everyday tasks, asking questions and using responses to navigate an unmapped environment, using human emotions to alter robotic behavior, and using nudges to navigate a crowded environment.

Navigating a complex, and uncertain environment with humans is challenging by itself. The best way to satisfy ambiguous human needs and preferences, some of which are dynamic, is an open-ended question that many roboticists are working on. Accomplishing a robot’s pre-defined goals efficiently, while navigating an environment with humans, is another challenge. Many of these are questions are part of the burgeoning field of Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).

Each team (composed of 4-6 people) will be provided a grant of $250, access to the R@B Parts Library and mentorship from experienced members. We welcome members with a diversity of previous making backgrounds - from people new to robotics to those who have created many projects before. We encourage interested students to apply as a team. However, if interested, we can also match members to teams after the application deadline. 

Towards the end of the semester, teams will present the robots that they built and programmed and share the reasons for their design choices and the impact it has on the robots’ functions. We hope you will join us in this interesting journey to explore Social Robotics!


Major Event Schedule

Date Event
2/06 (7-8 PM) Team Formation Mixer #1
2/10 (11:59 PM) Application Deadline

Do I need to have robotics experience to participate?

Experience is useful but not required. Our series of workshops and work sessions are designed so that participants with little or no robotics experience can learn the skills necessary to meaningfully contribute to their project. It is more important that each team is balanced with at least one member who is comfortable in each of these domain areas: mechanical design, electronics, and coding.

What can I build?

Your team may build an application/device that best addresses the theme. You may build anything so long as it is legal, is within budget, and falls within the domain of automation technology.

Why can't I access the interest form?

The form can only be accessed using berkeley.edu accounts. If you do not have a Berkeley account, you cannot access the application. Contact us if you are a Berkeley student and have difficulty accessing the form.

How do I apply to be on a project?

You can apply to participate in projects by coming to one of the R@B mixers. You must apply individually, regardless of whether you have someone in mind you'd like to work with. Each team will have its own application process.

How much will the project cost?

Thanks to our generous sponsors, these projects are funded by Robotics@Berkeley and free for participants. Each team will receive an initial $250 grant. We encourage all teams to also seek additional outside funding via donations, sponsorships, and/or crowdfunding.

Where will I get parts for my design?

Robotics@Berkeley currently has an extensive library of Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, motors, Wi-Fi modules, and other parts that participants can borrow from for the semester. We provide each team with an additional $250 to purchase more specific parts elsewhere if they need them.

How will the teams be formed?

Students must apply individually, and teams will be formed organically during the mixers after acceptances are sent out. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and join our email list for other networking opportunities!

Who can participate?

This competition is exclusively for undergraduates registered at UC Berkeley for Spring 2020 and visiting students studying at UC Berkeley in Spring 2020. We aim to accept a diverse group of students, and encourage everyone interested to apply regardless of your background.

What is the time commitment?

We expect you to spend at least 5 hours each week working on the project with your team. However, some weeks will require fewer or more hours. If you think you cannot fulfill this time commitment, these projects may not be for you.

What if I have a question not answered in the FAQ?

Email us at