The research objective of this award is to determine how elastic suspended loads affect the dynamic stability and energetic cost of locomotion using fundamental spring-mass models and an experimental robotic platform. The objective will be pursued by: investigating the effects of tuned elastically suspended loads by analyzing the dynamics of a double-sprung-mass vertical oscillator model, determining how a vertically elastically-suspended load affects the dynamic motion of a clock-torqued spring-mass model of locomotion, and determining how suspending loads affects the locomotion of a multi-legged robot. Dynamical systems modeling, analysis, and simulation will be the primary theoretical methods used throughout the project. Further, video capture and data acquisition of the power consumption in an experimental robot setup will be utilized. This work will focus on fundamental and general spring-mass models of locomotion along with a multi-legged hexapod (or quadruped) robot platform.
The results of this research will enable advancement of robot, exoskeleton, and other load-carrying systems, and provide a greater understanding of the role elasticity plays in biology. Load-carrying systems, whether autonomous or directly attached to a human, can reduce the load for those conducting challenging or dangerous work. Example applications include load-carrying robots, exoskeletons, and devices to assist humans carrying load while walking or running. The results of this research will be disseminated and integrated with teaching through an interdisciplinary training course on biological and robotic locomotion and by including students in research activities. Demonstration of this research to K-12 students is expected to encourage greater participation in engineering, math, and science.