EN.530.475/675. Locomotion I: Mechanics, Fall 2019

Focus

We will study the 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. From this mechanics view, we will discuss why animals move well in almost any environment, how they inspired some highly successful machines, and yet why most robots still struggle in modestly complex environments and how to improve them by better understanding the mechanics of locomotion. General principles and integration of knowledge from engineering, biology, and physics will be emphasized.

Topics

Many interesting topics will be discussed, such as: How can kangaroos hop faster 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, and highly efficient and dynamically stable running and walking robots like those built by Boston Dynamics? Why do legs work better than wheels on sand? How do sidewinders crawl up sandy dunes without triggering avalanches? How do cockroaches rapidly go through dense vegetation on the forest floor? Why do migrating birds fly in a V-formation? How exactly do bumblebees fly, given that engineers predicted they should not be able to, and how do this help engineers build robotic bees? Do Speedo’s sharkskin swimsuits really reduce drag?

Prerequisites

  • Students from ME and other departments are welcome.
  • Freshmen and sophomores with sufficient physics background may take with instructor approval.
  • Students should have a strong understanding of Newtonian mechanics.
  • Recommended course background: B or higher in EN.530.202 Dynamics or EN.560.202 Dynamics.

Closely-related courses

  • EN.530.676 Locomotion II: Dynamics, taught by Prof. Noah Cowan
    • This allied class introduces locomotion from a dynamical systems / controls point of view.
    • The two locomotion classes complement each other and together give an comprehensive overview of locomotion in animals and machines.
  • EN.530.439/639. Comparative Biomechanics (see below)

Meetings

  • Time: W/F 3:00-4:15 pm
  • Room: Maryland 202

Future plans

  • This class will be offered once every academic year.
  • The semester offered (Spring or Fall) is subject to change.

EN.530.439/639. Comparative Biomechanics, Fall 2019

Focus

Comparative Biomechanics refers to the mechanics of biological organisms, including both humans and many non-human organisms. This course introduces the biomechanical principles of organism morphology, function, and interactions with their environment, as well as how these principles have inspired useful engineering devices. There is an emphasis on both the diversity of natural and artificial biomechanical systems and the underlying unifying principles.

Topics

Many interesting topics will be discussed. Some examples include: Why can a mouse falling from a skyscraper walk away with little injury, but a horse will smash? Why do horses walk at low speeds but run at higher speeds? Can T-Rex run? Why do larger animals become more erect in their leg posture? How do geckos adhere to almost any surface? Can we learn from it to create a spider man? How can fleas jump to hundreds times of their body height? How does a chameleon shoot out its tongue to catch bugs? Why do British archers use the yew trees to make long bows? What other functions can muscles serve besides doing work? Why do animals need lungs for ventilation and a heart for blood circulation? How do prairie dogs get fresh air into their nest underground? How can giraffes drink by bending their head down to the ground without blowing their brains out, with a large blood pressure required to pump blood up when their head is up? Why do many tiny organisms have hairs? How do water striders walk on water and how do Jesus Christ lizards run on water? Can humans run on water? Students from ME and other departments are welcome.

Prerequisites

  • Students are assumed to be familiar with introductory physics.
  • Freshmen and sophomores with sufficient physics background may take it with instructor approval.

Closely-related courses

  • EN.530.475/675. Locomotion I: Mechanics (see above)

Meetings

  • Time: W/F 1:30-2:45 pm
  • Room: Maryland 202

Future plans

  • This class will be offered once every academic year.
  • The semester offered (Spring or Fall) is subject to change.