EN.530.468/668 Locomotion Mechanics: Fundamentals

Focus

This upper level undergraduate and graduate class will discuss fundamental mechanics of locomotion of both animals and machines, particularly bio-inspired robots. Locomotion emerges from effective physical interaction with an environment; therefore, the ability to generate appropriate forces (besides sensing, control, and planning) is essential to successful locomotion. General principles and integration of knowledge from engineering, biology, and physics will be emphasized.

Topics

  1. Introduction
  2. Running
  3. Walking
  4. Scaling
  5. Energetics
  6. Jumping
  7. Muscle Function
  8. Gliding & Soaring
  9. Hovering & Powered Forward Flight
  10. Swimming
  11. Moving on Water Surface

Sample questions include:

  • How can kangaroos hop faster and fleas jump higher than their muscles allow?
  • Why do race walkers use a peculiar hip movement?
  • How do animals inspire prosthetic feet that helped Blade Runner compete with abled athletes?
  • Why do Boston Dynamics’ robots move so well in most modest environments, and why does it still fail in complex terrain?
  • Why do horses walk at low speeds but run at higher speeds?
  • Can T-Rex run or must they walk?
  • Why do larger animals become more erect in their leg posture?
  • How can our muscles serve as energy-saving springs, force transmitting struts, and even energy-damping brakes?
  • Why do migrating birds fly in a V-formation?
  • Why do insects rotate their wings while flapping to fly?
  • How do water striders walk on water and why can’t we do it?
  • Do Speedo’s sharkskin swimsuits really reduce drag?

Nearly all these fundamental studies of interesting biological locomotion phenomena have led to engineering devices that use the same physics principles to on the ground, in the air, in and on the surface of water, with performance approaching that of animals.

Prerequisites

Grading

Homeworks (50%) + midterm (15%) + final (35%)


EN.530.469/669 Locomotion Mechanics: Recent Advances

Focus

This upper level undergraduate and graduate class will discuss recent advances in the mechanics of animal and bio-inspired robot locomotion in complex environments. All of the topics covered are from cutting edge research over the last 20 years, with many still being active research areas. General principles and integration of knowledge from engineering, biology, and physics will be emphasized.

Topics

  1. Introduction
  2. Adhesion
  3. Climbing
  4. Aerial Self-Righting
  5. Ground Self-Righting
  6. Robustness
  7. Legged Locomotion on Flowable Ground
  8. Burrowing
  9. Swarming
  10. Crawling
  11. Limbless Locomotion in 3-D Terrain
  12. Legged Locomotion in 3-D Terrain

Sample topics include:

  • How do geckos adhere to and climb over almost any surfaces?
  • How do all kinds of animals use tails in novel ways to quickly maneuver in the air and on the ground?
  • How do sandfish lizards burrow into and swim under sand?
  • How do sidewinder snakes crawl up steep sand dunes without triggering an avalanche?
  • How do large ants colonies dig and live in narrow tunnels without trapping themselves in traffic jams?
  • Why do legged and snake robots struggle on sand and rubble, whereas insects, lizards, and snakes traverse similar terrain at ease?
  • How do cockroaches survive after squeezing through gaps with pressure several hundreds of their body weight?
  • Why can a mouse falling from a skyscraper walk away with little injury, but a horse will smash?

Nearly all these fundamental studies of interesting biological locomotion phenomena have led to engineering devices that use the same physics principles to move in complex environments, with performance approaching that of animals.

Prerequisites

You do NOT need to take Fundamentals before taking Recent Advances.

Grading

Homeworks (50%) + midterm (15%) + final (35%)


Closely-related course

EN.530.676. Locomotion Dynamics & Control

  • Prof. Noah Cowan
  • Graduate level
  • A deep dive into locomotion from a dynamical systems and controls point of view.
  • Good mathematical skills are recommended.

Students with Disabilities – Accommodations and Accessibility 

Johns Hopkins University values diversity and inclusion. We are committed to providing welcoming, equitable, and accessible educational experiences for all students. Students with disabilities (including those with psychological, medical, and temporary disabilities) can request accommodations for these course by providing an Accommodation Letter issued by Student Disability Services (SDS). Please request accommodations as early as possible to provide time for effective communication and arrangements. For further information or to start the process of requesting accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services at the Whiting School of Engineering, or contact SDS at 410-516-4720 or [email protected]jhu.edu.