Spring 2019

EN.530.475/675 Locomotion I: Mechanics


This is a course on the mechanics of locomotion in animals and man-made devices (particularly bio-inspired and biomimetic robots). Locomotion emerges from effective physical interaction of an animal or a device with the surrounding environment; therefore, the ability to generate appropriate forces (besides robust sensing and control) is essential to successful locomotion. From a mechanics point of view, we will discuss why animals move amazingly well in almost any environment, how they have inspired some highly successful machines, and yet why the majority of robots still struggle in environments that are only modestly complex and how they may be improved by better understanding the mechanics of locomotion. Primary focus will be on terrestrial locomotion, but aerial and aquatic locomotion will be also discussed, all with numerous examples. General principles and integration of knowledge from engineering, biology, and physics will be emphasized. Students from ME and other departments are welcome. A STRONG understanding of Newtonian mechanics is required.


  • Class time: T/Th 1:30-2:45
  • Room: Maryland 202

Prerequisite coursework

  • For 475: Earning B+ or higher in EN.530.202 Dynamics or EN.560.202 Dynamics
  • For 675: Earning B+ or higher in an undergraduate Dynamics course

Recommended textbook

  • Principles of Animal Locomotion
  • Author: R. McNeil Alexander
  • Princeton University Press, 2006
  • ISBN: 9780691126340
  • Table of contents
  • Book review

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.