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SEMINAR: Synthetic Nervous Systems for Legged Robotics
January 31 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Mobile robots have the potential to revolutionize fields as diverse as agriculture, emergency response, and extraplanetary exploration. Legged robots in particular could enable access to and transportation over previously inaccessible terrains. Legs are an inherently biological mobility solution, so it is reasonable to look to animals for inspiration. In particular, insects are highly-evolved walking machines. With the advent of optogenetics and other genetic tools for manipulating the nervous system, the opportunity for learning about nervous systems and applying that knowledge to robots has never been greater.
My primary research goal is to use physical and simulated robotic systems to test neurobiological knowledge uncovered by my biologist collaborators. My secondary goal is to use these models as the basis for legged robot controllers that may be more adaptable and scalable than the state of the art. My research uses biological data to construct bottom-up computational neuroscience models of insect nervous systems (termed “Synthetic Nervous Systems,” or SNS), and applies these models as legged robot controllers. The goal is to create a dynamical, understandable, and transparent control system for robot locomotion and behavior, whose structure comes from biological data, and is tuned to perform a useful function. In this talk I will describe the progression of this research, note some offshoot and collaborative projects, and discuss industrial applications of this technology.
Nicholas Szczecinski is a research associate in the Biologically Inspired Robotics Laboratory at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. There he manages a team of students with backgrounds in engineering, computational neuroscience, and animal neuroscience. Prior to this position, he was a postdoctoral scholar in Prof. Ansgar Bueschges’ neurobiology laboratory at the University of Cologne in Cologne, Germany. Nick got his Ph.D. (2017), M.S. (2013), and B.S. (2012) in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University. He has published 32 peer-reviewed journal and conference papers, and has presented at 12 national and international conferences. Nick maintains several interdisciplinary research collaborations in Europe and North America, and is looking forward to applying what is known about animals’ nervous systems to build practical robots.