Abstract: I’ve always loved building robots, even as a child. I was pretty good at it, too. Throughout my career, I have sought to design a research program that straddles the border between computational theory and mechatronic implementation: rigorous mathematical results enable engineering advancements while the practical aspects of implementation drive theoretical derivation. This research program has two foci: snake robots and coverage tasks. Snake robots are highly articulated mechanisms that can thread through tightly packed volumes and access locations that people and machinery cannot. This makes them particularly useful for search and rescue and minimally invasive surgery. Coverage has applications for demining, surveillance and car-painting. Both of these foci touch upon a number of key problems in robotics including: path planning, locomotion gait generation, SLAM, and hybrid controls. In this talk, I will discuss some key fundamentals in designing mechanisms with many degrees of freedom, using topology to bound complexity in path planning and SLAM, applying the connection to design controllers and describe maneuverability, and developing hybrid techniques for combined path planning, locomotion and estimation. I will also discuss my educational activities, especially at the undergraduate level, with a course using LEGO robots and the role of entrepreneurism in University education.
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