Robot Locomotion Design through Integrated Mechanical Intelligence and Control

Alireza Ramezani, PhD
Assistant Professor
Northeastern University, USA
Research Interests
Design and development of robots with nontrivial morphologies; Analysis and closed-loop feedback design of nonlinear systems; Robot locomotion (legged & fluidic-based); Robotics-inspired biology

In this presentation, the challenges involved in designing and controlling small locomotion systems that dynamically interact with their environment will be described. Small locomotion systems, like bats, which dynamically interact with their environment, pose complex engineering challenges. These systems have multiple joints with numerous passive and active coordinates, making control design and actuation exceedingly difficult due to restrictive design requirements such as limited computational resources, payload, power budget, and so on. To address these challenges, a design framework based on integrated mechanical intelligence and control is introduced in this talk. Topology optimization and multi-material 3D printing are utilized to develop computational structures that can accommodate feedback-driven components for dynamic body morphing in a controlled manner. Several examples of the small locomotion systems designed by our group are presented, and preliminary experimental validations are reported. The primary application of our locomotion systems is for civic purposes, such as monitoring confined spaces. A summary of these applications is presented to inspire our ongoing research efforts in this area.

Alireza Ramezani is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Northeastern University (NU). Before joining NU in 2018, he served as a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech’s Division of Engineering and Applied Science. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under the supervision of Jessy Grizzle. Alireza’s research interests lie in the design of bioinspired mobile robots with nontrivial morphologies, involving high degrees of freedom and dynamic interactions with the environment, as well as the analysis and nonlinear, closed-loop feedback design of locomotion systems. His designs have been featured in several high-impact journals, including two cover articles in Science Robotics Magazine, listed among the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Science Magazine, and research highlights in Nature. Alireza has been awarded the Breakthrough, Innovative, and Game-Changing (BIG) Idea Award from Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) Program twice (in 2020 and 2022) for designing bioinspired locomotion systems to explore the Moon and Mars craters. Furthermore, in 2022, Northeastern’s team, under his leadership, won NASA’s top award, the ARTEMIS Award, at the BIG Idea Challenge Forum. He is also the recipient of JPL’s Faculty Research Program Position. Alireza’s research has received widespread attention and has been covered by over 200 news outlets, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, National Geographic, CNN, NBC, and Euronews.