After giving a presentation and serving on a panel at the 2022 Gordon Research Seminar in Robotics, Alexis E. Block was elected co-chair of the next biennial seminar. Having attended the seminar and its associated conference the previous iteration, Block was honored to have been selected to lead the 2024 seminar.
Block, the Human Fusions Institute’s first full-time faculty member, appreciates the "off the record" dynamic of the seminar and conference, which "encourages free discussion of cutting edge research." A significant component of the conference and seminar is the discussion of unpublished research.
As co-chair of the event, Block was responsible for selecting a seminar theme. After choosing the theme, “Rigid and Soft Robotics: Combinations to Improve Performance and Interactions, " she read through conference applications and selected participants from around the world. Once she accepted participants, she assembled the seminar's schedule, including two poster sessions, a panel, several speaker sessions, and a keynote address featuring Assistant Professor Ryan Truby of Northwestern University.
Block reported favorably about all the seminar speakers, especially Truby's keynote, which covered the links between his sensorization strategies and the design of his actuators. Though they all took unique approaches to the topic, many presenters at the seminar spoke about the benefits and drawbacks of both rigid and soft materials and how precision, strength, flexibility, and comfort can be ensured by designing systems utilizing both. Another theme from the seminar was the bioinspired nature of designing systems with rigid and soft components because they resemble the musculoskeletal system.
Gordon Research Conferences ran the seminar and conference from January 13-19 in Ventura, California.