Robotics Research at the School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University

A number of faculty and students in the School of Mechanical Engineering are engaged in traditional Robotics and Robotics-inspired Research.  The Robotics faculty along with their master’s and doctoral students conduct both fundamental and applied research in a variety of areas.  The groups’ research activities comprise all aspects of robotics including development of component technologies (e.g., sensors, actuators, structures, and communication), novel robotic platforms, design, controls, intelligence, advanced manufacturing, mechatronics, and autonomy for robotic systems.

Current faculty research includes projects in the following areas:

Soft and Micro-robotics:  soft active materials for actuation, sensing, and power of under-actuated compliant systems; meso-, micro-, and nano-scale robotic manipulation and assembly; untethered wireless microrobots; cm-to-mm scale aerial and ground robots.
Related Faculty:  Cappelleri, Cipra, Deng, Kramer

Bio-Inspired Robotics: Principles of aerial and aquatic locomotion in animals; Biologically inspired micro aerial vehicles and underwater robots; Dynamics and control of biological, bioinspired, and human-machine systems; Sensory skins for robot control; data gloves and haptics.
Related Faculty:  Chiu, Deng, Kramer, Ramani, Seipel

Modular and Reconfigurable Robotics: reconfigurable, application specific robot topologies; robotically assembled, micro-scale modular building blocks; Reconfigurable/morphing structures for virtual design & interaction.
Related Faculty:  Cappelleri, Cipra, Kramer

Aerial Robotics:  Unmanned aerial vehicle coordination and control, Micro-aerial vehicle design and control; Flying insect robots; aerodynamics and flight dynamics.
Related Faculty: Ariyur, Cappelleri, Deng

Medical and Assistive Robotics:  Minimally invasive robotic surgical tools; Sensory skins for platforms including wearable computing, injury prevention & rehabilitation; Assistive devices
Related Faculty:  Cappelleri, Cipra, Kramer, Nauman, Seipel

Advanced Manufacturing and Automation: Precision and high speed motion control; digital printing and microfabrication; Micro-scale additive manufacturing; Automation for life science applications; Automated microassembly.
Related Faculty:  Chiu, Cipra, Cappelleri, Meckl, Yao, Kramer

Research Labs

The Autonomous Systems Lab

Our effort is focused on building autonomy into various systems operating in unstructured or uncertain environments. This includes navigating with natural signals without GPS—using the magnetic field, angles to the sun, moon, stars, or landmarks, and gravity for orientation and positioning. Autonomous path and mission planning aim at permitting a few operators to control a large number of assets, such as sensors or unmanned vehicles. Adaptation to changing vehicle conditions needs health monitoring and adaptive control. Our work on energy management aims to balance supply and demand in the smart grid at various levels—in the grid to improve utility efficiency and grid safety, at residences or commercial facilities to reduce their costs and billing uncertainties arising from real time prices—all without operator intervention. Our work on facility security dynamizes security settings in a variety of systems to make it hard for intruders to compromise the system without operators having to monitor very much. We develop and use tools of system identification: static and dynamic, on the sensing systems we construct and the utility and facility data that pass through our controllers. We also use tools of estimation and control of stochastic systems to make sense of the data collected, to convert economic signals to control signals, and to alert human operators.

Bio-Robotics Lab

We work in the field of Biologically Inspired Robots, an emerging multidisciplinary field dedicated to the next generations of robotics that are inspired by nature.  We use robotics theories and experiments to investigate the locomotion principles of biological systems (e.g. flying insects, birds, and fish) to decode their secrets of highly maneuverable, stable, and energy efficient movement.  These discoveries, in turn, help us develop next generation bio-inspired robots, which can efficiently navigate in air, land, and sea.  Such robots can then be used for their greater adaptivity and robustness in performance compared to conventional robots in confined, complex, and unstructured environment.

Computational Design and Innovation Lab

Our research is at the cross-roads of mechanical engineering and computer sciences driven by geometry and design inspired areas. In particular our core areas are related to machine learning, human-computer natural interaction, computational geometry/modeling, and design. Design as an expression of shapes and manufacture are among our core applications. Our group projects and vision are focused on creating the geometry inspired algorithms for natural creation, reasoning, sensing and response to both virtual and physical artifacts. Our current application areas are inspired by the future we strive to create. We build upon our past successes such as in shape-based search, developing tools for early design, and significant experiences in the making of things.


The Purdue Faboratory researches new and innovative ways to make things. The natural world is filled with soft, robust, and conformable mechanisms capable of stably and safely interacting with their environment. However, the machines and electronics that we build today are most often constructed from rigid components. We build mechanisms that exploit the properties of soft materials, such as extreme deformability and responsiveness to external stimuli. In addition to new soft mechanisms, we also develop new techniques and processes for synthesizing soft composite materials. While many micro-scale manufacturing techniques have been developed for MEMS (rigid, silicon-based) devices, these techniques are not compatible with soft elastomeric and liquid-phase materials. We therefore research new “Soft-MEMS” processes in order to achieve micro-scale soft matter mechanisms. In The Purdue Faboratory, we apply these new processes and devices to the development of soft robotics, wearable robotics, and stretchable electronics.

Intelligent and Precision Control Laboratory (IPCL)

The IPCL focuses on designing and developing strategies for intelligent and yet high performance control of precision electro-mechanical/hydraulic systems. Current research areas include: Nonlinear adaptive robust control, Energy-saving nonlinear control of electro-hydraulic systems, Intelligent control of precision high-speed linear motor drive systems, machine tools, and piezo-electric actuators for precision manufacturing, Ultra precision control of laser micro-machining processes, Nonlinear control of high-density hard disk drives, Coordinated control of robot manipulators, and Nonlinear observer design and Neural networks for virtual sensing, modeling, fault detection, diagnostics, and adaptive robust fault-tolerant control.

Mechatronics Systems Research Laboratory (MSRL)

The MSRL performs research on integrated design of "intelligent" components and machines that combines mechanical systems, active materials, electronics and information process capabilities to achieve superior system level performance as well as being able to be interfaced through various network protocols. We are focusing on: (i) integration of smart materials and MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) into sensors and actuators; (ii) integrating sensory input, information process, and system dynamics to improve system performance and diagnostics; and (iii) utilizing feedback control concept to gain insight into system performance envelope and subsystem interactions to obtain guidelines for design modification. Additional research areas of interest are: Modeling, Control and Diagnostics of Digital Imaging and Printing Systems and Perception Based Engineering (PBE).

Multi-Scale Robotics & Automation Lab

The MSRAL performs cutting-edge research on robotic and automation systems at various length scales: macro-scale (cm to m), meso-scale (~100's of um to a few mm's), micro-scale (10's of um to 100's of um), and nano-scale (nm). Research areas of focus are multi-scale robotic manipulation and assembly tasks, mobile micro/nano robotics, bio-nano robotics, mechatronics, robotic system integration, medical robotics and devices, MEMS device design and fabrication to aid in robotics and automation tasks, automation for the life sciences, and micro/nano aerial and ground vehicle design & control.

Seipel Lab

The Seipel Lab focuses on understanding and designing for the whole-body motion of humans, robots, and the interface between humans and devices. Human movement is important for health, transportation, work, development, and play. Robots are inspired and improved by learning from the way humans and other animals move. Devices that interact with human motion to assist or enhance that motion, such as wearable robots, have the potential to be a transformative future technology.


Robotics Courses 

ME 560 - Kinematics
ME 562 - Advanced Dynamics
ME 565 - Vehicle Dynamics
ME 566 - Mechanics of Machinery
ME 567 - Dynamical Problems in Design
ME 572 - Analysis and Design of Robotic Manipulators
ME 573 - Interactive Computer Graphics
ME 574 - Advanced Computer Graphics Applications
ME 575 - Theory and Design of Control Systems
ME 576 - Computer Control of Manufacturing Processes
ME 578 - Digital Control
ME 580 - Nonlinear Engineering Systems
ME 586 - Microprocessors in Electromechanical Systems
ME 588 - Mechatronics
ME 597 - System Identification
ME 597Y - Adaptive Control
ME 660 - Advanced Kinematics
ME 675 - Multivariable Control System Design
ME 677 - Nonlinear Controller Design
ME 689 - Adaptive Control
ME 697Y - Intelligent Systems