Assistant Professor

Onur Özcan


I create bio-inspired miniature ambulatory robots through research at the interface of mechanical engineering and robotics. I received my B.S. (2007) in Mechatronics Engineering at Sabancı University in Istanbul, Turkey and my M.S. (2010) and Ph.D. (2012) in Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During graduate studies, I worked on control and automation of tip-directed nanoscale fabrication and design, modeling, and implementation of a water strider-inspired floating robot at Prof. Metin Sitti’s Nanorobotics Laboratory. Following PhD, I joined Prof. Robert J. Wood’s Microrobotics Laboratory as a postdoctoral researcher working on fabrication and control of miniature crawling robots at Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.


Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University (2012)
M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University (2010)
B.S., Mechatronics Engineering, Sabancı University (2007)


As an engineer, my motivation is both scientific and application-based; I strive to answer scientifically interesting real-life problems in miniature robotics. Through this process, I often look to nature for inspiration because real-life problems often have solutions that have evolved in nature. With an application-based motivation and a bio-inspired approach, I conduct robotics research that is experimental, interdisciplinary, and collaborative. Testing theories and building prototypes are crucial for robotics research. My research methodology therefore focuses on theorizing solutions, building instruments to rigorously experiment on these theories, and building prototypes. In addition, I believe in a collaboration-based interdisciplinary approach to research, primarily because problems and their solutions are rarely confined to a narrow branch of science or engineering.

My main objective is to expand the use of miniature robots among industry and general public by creating robots that can carry application-related sensors and end-effectors but are cheaper and smaller than existing robots. Towards this objective, I am interested in building unconventional and novel robotic systems to push the envelope in robotics research and answer the following questions:

1. How can we make miniature robots more easily and/or inexpensively? One pressing issue with miniature robots is that they are expensive and difficult to make. The often-used fabrication method in miniature devices, NEMS/MEMS fabrication, requires extensive user training, is very selective towards its substrate, and requires an expensive infrastructure. My research focuses on small terrestrial robots that are fabricated using planar fabrication and folding techniques in order to reduce manufacturing complexity.

2. How can we make robots and their mechanisms smaller? A primary reason behind creating miniature robots/mechanisms is to exploit scaling laws in order to build mechanisms that have favorable properties compared to their macroscale counterparts. An example of mechanisms with unique performance when scaled down is the hydrophobic water strider robot legs. When a floating robot is designed to be below a certain weight, these hydrophobic legs can utilize surface tension to make the robot stay afloat without using buoyancy; hence, reducing the drag force experienced by the robot.

3. How do we optimize the capabilities of miniature robots? Due to the limited payload capacity of miniature robots, integrating commercially available sensors and end-effectors to perform tasks is challenging and often infeasible. However, making robots smaller should not mean compromising capabilities or complexity. My research relies on testing and modeling miniature robot prototypes to increase capabilities such as payload capacity that can be used for sensing the environment and powering the robot.


    Journal Paper
  • Karakadıoğlu, C., Özcan, O. (2018). "Accurate Modeling of Compliant Mechanism Kinematics in Foldable Miniature Robots Using Large Deflection Beam Theory", ASME Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics (Under Review)
  • Özcan, O., Hu, W., Sitti, M., Bain, J., Ricketts, D. (2014). "Investigation of Tip Current and Normal Force Measured Simultaneously During Local Oxidation of Titanium using Dual-Mode Scanning Probe Microscopy", Micro & Nano Letters, IET, v.9(5) p.332-336
  • Baisch, A., Özcan, O., Goldberg, B., Ithier, D., Wood, R. (2014). "High Speed Locomotion for a Quadrupedal Microrobot", The International Journal of Robotics Research, v.33(8) p.1063-1082
  • Özcan, O., Wang, H., Taylor, J., Sitti, M. (2014). "STRIDE II: A Water Strider-Inspired Miniature Robot with Circular Footpads", International Journal of Advanced Robotic Systems, v.11 p.85
  • Özcan, O., Sitti, M. (2012). "Modeling of Conductive Atomic Force Microscope Probes for Scanning Tunneling Microscope Operation", Micro & Nano Letters, IET, v.7(4) p.329-333
  • Önal, Ç.D., Özcan, O., Sitti, M. (2011). "Automated 2-D Nanoparticle Manipulation using Atomic Force Microscopy", Nanotechnology, IEEE Transactions on, v.10(3) p.472-481
  • Güç, A.F., Kalın, M.A., Karakadıoğlu, C., Özcan, O. (2017). "C-Quad: A Miniature, Foldable Quadruped with C-Shaped Compliant Legs", IEEE ROBIO’17. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics p.26-31
  • Askari, M., Karakadıoğlu, C., Ayhan, F., Özcan, O. (2017). "MinIAQ-II: A Miniature Foldable Quadruped with an Improved Leg Mechanism", IEEE ROBIO’17. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics p.19-25
  • Karakadıoğlu, C., Askari, M., Özcan, O. (2017). "Design and Operation of MinIAQ: An Untethered Foldable Miniature Quadruped with Individually Actuated Legs", IEEE AIM’17. IEEE International Conference on Advanced Intelligent Mechatronics p.247-252
  • Bruhwiler, R., Goldberg, B., Doshi, N., Özcan, O., Jafferis, N., Karpelson, M., Wood, R. (2015). "Feedback Control of a Legged Microrobot with On-Board Sensing", IROS'15. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems p.5727-5733
  • Seitz, B., Goldberg, B., Doshi, N., Özcan, O., Christensen, D., Hawkes, E., Cutkosky, M., Wood, R. (2014). "Bio-Inspired Mechanisms for Inclined Locomotion in a Legged Insect-Scale Robot", 2014 ROBIO, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Biomimetics
  • Aukes, D., Özcan, O., Wood, R. (2014). "Monolithic Design and Fabrication of a 2-DOF Bio-Inspired Leg Transmission", Living Machines: Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems p.1-10
  • Özcan, O., Baisch, A., Ithier, C., Wood, R. (2014). "Powertrain Selection for a Biologically-Inspired Miniature Quadruped Robot", ICRA’14. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation p.2398-2405
  • Goldberg, B., Karpelson, M., Özcan, O., Wood, R. (2014). "Planar Fabrication of a Mesoscale Voice Coil Actuator", ICRA’14. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation p.6319-6325
  • Karpelson, M., Waters, B., Goldberg, B., Mahoney, B., Özcan, O., Baisch, A., Meyitang, P., Smith, J., Wood, R. (2014). "A Wirelessly Powered, Biologically-Inspired Ambulatory Microrobot", ICRA’14. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation p.2384-2391
  • Özcan, O., Baisch, A. T., Wood, R. (2013). "Design and Feedback Control of a Biologically-Inspired Miniature Quadruped", IROS’13. IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems p.1438-1444
  • Önal, Ç.D., Sümer, B., Özcan, O., Nain, A., Sitti, M. (2011). "Tip Based Robotic Precision Micro/Nanomanipulation Systems", SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing, International Society for Optics and Photonics p.80580M
  • Özcan, O., Wang, H., Taylor, J., Sitti, M. (2010). "Surface Tension Driven Water Strider Robot using Circular Footpads", ICRA’10. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation p.3799-3804
  • Önal, Ç.D., Özcan, O., Sitti, M. (2009). "Automated 2-D Nanoparticle Manipulation with an Atomic Force Microscope", ICRA’09. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation p.1814-1819
  • Önal, Ç.D., Özcan, O., Sitti, M. (2012). "Automated Tip Based 2-D Mechanical Assembly of Micro/Nanoparticles", In J.J. Gorman, and B. Shapiro (Eds.), Feedback Control of MEMS to Atoms, Springer p.69-108
  • Önal, Ç.D., Özcan, O., Sitti, M. (2010). "Atomic Force Microscopy Based Nanomanipulation Systems", In K. Settler (Ed.), Handbook of Nanophysics: Nanomedicine and Nanorobotics
  • Özcan, O. (2012). "Tip Based Automated Nanomanipulation using Scanning Probe Microscopy", Carnegie Mellon University