Presenter: Alfred Rizzi (Homepage)

Event Dates:
  Friday February 14, 2014 from 11:00am to 12:00pm

Only about half the Earth's landmass is accessible to wheeled and  tracked vehicles, yet people and animals can go almost everywhere on foot. Our goal is to develop novel locomotion systems that can go anywhere people and animals go. The systems we build combine dynamic control systems, actuated mechanisms and sensing to travel on terrain that is too rocky, sandy, muddy, snowy, wet or steep for existing conventional vehicles. This presentation will discuss progress at Boston Dynamics in building such systems, including WildCat, LS3, Atlas, RHex, PETMAN and others.

Presenter's Biography:

Al Rizzi has been the Chief Robotics Scientist at Boston Dynamics, a company that develops some of the world's most sophisticated dynamic robots, including WildCat, LS3, BigDog, Atlas, Petman and others. These robots combine advanced locomotion control systems with innovative mechanical designs and are designed to enable travel on rough terrain. Prior to joining Boston Dynamics in 2006, he was an Associate Research Professor in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University where he directed research projects focused on hybrid sensor-based control of complex and distributed dynamical systems.  Dr. Rizzi received the Sc.B, degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1986. He received the M.S. and Ph.D. from Yale University in 1990 and 1994 respectively.

Presenter: Aaron Dollar (Homepage)

Event Dates:
  Friday February 7, 2014 from 11:00am to 12:00pm

Despite decades of research, current robotic systems are unable to reliably grasp and manipulate a wide range of unstructured objects in human environments. The somewhat traditional approach of attempting to copy the immense mechanical complexity of the human hand in a stiff "robotic" mechanism, and the subsequently required levels of sensing and control, has not yet been successful.

Presenter's Biography:

Aaron Dollar is the John J. Lee Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science at Yale University. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, S.M. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Science at Harvard University, and was a postdoctoral associate at MIT in Health Sciences and Technology and the Media Lab. He directs the Yale GRAB Lab, which conducts research into robotic hands and dexterous manipulation, prosthetics, and assistive and rehabilitation devices. Prof. Dollar is co-founder and editor of, an open repository for robotics pedagogical materials, and is the recipient of a number of awards, including young investigator awards from DARPA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the National Science Foundation.

Event Date(s):
  Friday January 24, 2014 at 9:00am

Penn Robotics Industry Day January 24, 2014

Krishna P. Singh Center
3205 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA
9:00 am – 4:00 pm


09:00 – 10:00             Registration and Continental Breakfast

10:00 – 11:00             Presentations

Presenter: Matthew Turpin (Homepage)

Event Dates:
  Wednesday February 19, 2014 from 1:00pm to 2:00pm

* Alternate Location: Levine 307 (3330 Walnut Street)*

Large teams of robots have been implemented to great success in Kiva's automated warehouses as well as UPenn's and KMel Robotics' swarms of quadrotors. In settings such as these, robots must plan paths which avoid collisions with other robots and obstacles in the environment.

Presenter's Biography:

Matthew Turpin is a PhD candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania working with Vijay Kumar and Nathan Michael. He works on formation control and trajectory planning for large teams of quadrotor micro-aerial vehicles.

Thursday January 16, 2014

Check out Dr. Vijay Kumar, Dr. Dan Lee, and Dr. Katherine Kuchenbecker participating in a live radio show Thursday, January 16th from 10 to 11 a.m. Eastern.
The show is Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane and they will be talking about robotics:
The show is broadcasted live and you can listen live by tuning in to WHYY (90.9 FM in the Delaware Valley).

Presenter: Jnaneshwar Das (Homepage)

Event Dates:
  Friday January 17, 2014 from 11:00am to 12:00pm

* Alternate Location: Levine 307 (3330 Walnut Street)*

Robotic sampling is attractive in many field robotics applications that require persistent collection of physical samples for ex-situ analysis. Examples abound in the earth sciences in studies involving the collection of rock, soil, and water samples for lab analysis. The desirability of samples in these domains can be expressed as a property that cannot be determined in-situ, but can be predicted by covariates measurable in real-time using sensors carried aboard a robot.

Presenter's Biography:

Jnaneshwar Das is a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at the Robotic Embedded Systems Laboratory, University of Southern California. His research interests are in the use of robotic assets for the earth sciences. Since the summer of 2009, he has been collaborating with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) on prediction of plankton distribution in the coastal ocean from in-situ data and physical water samples gathered by autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Prior to this effort, he designed and deployed the first prototype of an Oceanographic Decision Support System,, used actively by scientists to monitor assets during large-scale field campaigns. He received his M.S. in Computer Science from USC in 2008.

Presenter: Jeremy Gillula

Event Dates:
  Thursday January 16, 2014 from 12:00pm to 1:00pm

* Alternate Location: Moore 317 (inside Moore 316)*

Reinforcement learning has proven itself to be a powerful technique in robotics, however it has rarely been employed to learn in a hardware-in-the-loop environment due to the fact that spurious training data could cause a robot to take an unsafe (and potentially catastrophic) action.

Presenter's Biography:

Jeremy Gillula is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California at Berkeley.  He obtained his masters and doctoral degrees from Stanford University, where his research focused on algorithms for guaranteeing safety for online learning methods applied to robotic systems.  Prior to that, he did his undergraduate work at Caltech, where he was a key member of the school's Desert DARPA Grand Challenge team, working on sensing systems and sensor fusion.  In addition to robotics, he is also interested in the area of technology policy and law, particularly how to best regulate the burgeoning areas of autonomous ground and aerial vehicles.

Presenter: Joelle Pineau (Homepage)

Event Dates:
  Friday January 31, 2014 from 11:00am to 12:00pm

A key skill for mobile robots is the ability to navigate efficiently through their environment. In the case of social or assistive robots, this involves navigating through human crowds. Typical performance criteria, such as reaching the goal using the shortest path, are not appropriate in such environments, where it is more important for the robot to move in a socially acceptable manner. In this talk I will describe new methods based on imitation and reinforcement learning which we have developed to allow robots to achieve socially adaptive path planning in human environments.

Presenter's Biography:

Joelle Pineau is an Associate Professor at the School of Computer Science at McGill University, where she co-directs the Reasoning and Learning Lab. She received her PhD in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2004. Her research centres on developing efficient algorithms for learning and decision-making in partially observable stochastic domains, and applying these algorithms to complex problems in robotics and health-care.

Thursday January 9, 2014

Penn roboticists take on the world


Defense Advanced Research Projects

Event Date(s):
  Thursday December 12, 2013 at 6:00pm

** ROBOCKEY 2013 ***
It’s time for the fifth-annual Robockey tournament!
As this year’s mechatronics class is drawing to a close, many of you have already born witness to the growing flurry of activity around the GM lab.