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Materials Science at Oregon State University

Geometric Mechanics and Optimal Coordinates for Locomotion

Date: Thursday, Nov 8th
Presenter: Prof. Ross Hatten, School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering, Oregon State University


Locomotion of articulated robots can be a challenging problem, involving nonlinear dynamics and the coordination of many degrees of freedom. Geometric mechanics offers a vocabulary for discussing these dynamics in terms of lengths, areas, and curvatures. In particular, a tool called the 'Lie bracket' combines these geometric concepts to describe the effects of cyclic changes in the robots shape, such as the gaits used by walking or crawling systems.

In this talk, I will introduce some basic principles of geometric mechanics, and show how they provide insight into the locomotion of undulating systems (such as snakes and micro-organisms). I will then discuss my findings that the coordinates used to represent these systems can greatly affect the applicability of such tools, and that the choice of coordinates for a given system can be optimized in a simple, fundamental manner.

Ross L. Hatton is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State University. He received PhD and MS degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University in 2011 and 2007, following an SB in the same from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005. His research focuses on understanding the fundamental mechanics of locomotion and on finding abstractions that facilitate human control of unconventional locomotors. These investigations combine biological inspiration from animals like snakes and spiders with rigorous mathematical formulations to encode the insights gained by observing living organisms.