The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | February 27

Mechanical Engineering / Robotics Institute Seminar, February 27
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Robots that Climb, Cover, and SLAM: Topological methods in Robotics

Howie Choset
Mechanical Engineering Department &
Robotics Institute

Carnegie Mellon University


Time and Place


Scaife Hall 125

Refreshments 10:00 am (Scaife Hall 322)
Talk 10:30 am



In this presentation I will highlight the work of my research group concerning snake robots and tasks that require a robot to cover a space, and I will briefly overview the LEGO robotic educational experiences in our undergraduate course entitled General Robotics.


Starting with snake robots, we initially explored novel designs for the snake robots we had developed. Mechanism design by itself was not enough though, so we went on  to develop  rigorous path planning and control algorithms based on topological methods to effectively control snake robots. These topological methods can be generalized to address other problems such as hierarchical simultaneous localization and mapping and optimal path planning. We employ the topology of the workspace to divide a problem into simpler, contractible regions through which we can achieve our task and then develop a topological map to tie together these regions, thereby composing their tasks. This philosophy can also be applied to hybrid controls.


Furthermore, we also use topological approaches to achieve the task of coverage where looking for landmines is the  motivating application. Again, we achieve coverage by dividing the free space into regions with simple structure, i.e., those that are trivial to cover, and then achieve complete coverage by ensuring to visit each region.  We combine this work with basic principles in differential geometry to lift coverage into three dimensions for surface body deposition applications such as car painting. In this instance we have the added challenge of performing optimal coverage, in addition to complete coverage.


Speaker Biography

Howie Choset is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University where he conducts research in motion planning and design of serpentine mechanisms, coverage path planning for de-mining and painting, mobile robot sensor based exploration of unknown spaces, and education with robotics.  In 1997, the National Science Foundation awarded  Choset its Career Award to develop motion planning strategies for arbitrarily shaped objects. In 1999, the Office of Naval Research started supporting Choset through its Young Investigator Program to develop strategies to search for land and sea mines. Recently, the MIT Technology Review elected Choset as one of its top 100 innovators in the world under 35.

Choset directs the Undergraduate Robotics Minor at Carnegie Mellon and teaches an overview course on Robotics which uses series of custom developed Lego Labs to complement the course work. Professor Choset's students have won best paper awards at the RIA in 1999 and ICRA in 2003. Finally, Choset is a member of an urban search and rescue response team using robots with the Center for Robot Assisted Search and Rescue.



Speaker Appointments

For appointments, please contact Howie Choset

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.