The objective of this award is to offer a control synthesis framework for feedback laws that harness compliance to realize agile locomotion in a class of robotic quadrupeds. To achieve this goal, a modeling and control hierarchy that transforms nature-inspired reductive models of locomotion behavior into concrete control commands to the robots? actuators is proposed. If successful, this research effort will impact the study of many other engineered and biological systems, which, like legged robots, accomplish their purpose through forceful, cyclic interactions with their environment. Deliverables include models of locomotion behavior; analytical methods to rigorously characterize cyclic motion generation and stability of quadrupedal running gaits; constructive control techniques and systematic control law design tools that minimize laborious, trial-and-error experimentation; verification procedures to test the controllers in a variety of running gaits using widely accepted performance metrics; and engineering student education and engineering research experiences for K-12 teachers.
This work directly addresses a principal barrier to innovation that faces the legged robotics community today: systematic controller design tools that enable legged machines to perform real-world tasks reliably and efficiently. This way, this research effort promotes the advancement of a host of real-life applications, including industrial, agricultural and military applications, which require highly mobile and versatile robot platforms. In the long run, this work will lead to increased public acceptance and more pervasive use of robots. In addition, graduate and undergraduate engineering students will benefit through active participation in the research process. An integral part of this effort is to immerse K-12 teachers in engineering research experiences, with the purpose of translating those experiences into classroom activities to enhance their standards-based curriculum.