Duke Engineering Invaded by Robots

A flurry of newly hired professors launches Duke Robotics

If you’ve ever dreamed of exploring the Serengeti by drone or building a real-life medical C-3PO, Duke has you covered.

Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering has made several new faculty hires in the past few years to create a group that will position the school to be a competitive leader in one of the most important and interesting fields of the 21st century—robotics.

The newly formed Duke Robotics group draws from three departments in Pratt and from many other departments and institutions across campus, like the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the Department of Computer Science. An interdisciplinary field by nature, robotics has many faculty members with dual appointments in seemingly disparate fields.

Among the new faculty members are Kris Hauser (MEMS/ECE), who focuses on the planning and control of autonomous robots; Mary “Missy” Cummings (MEMS), an expert on drones, autonomous systems engineering, boredom in human operators, and human/robot interfaces; Michael Zavlanos (MEMS), who works on hybrid solution techniques and the interface of control theory with the discrete science of networks and graphs; and George Konidaris (CS/ECE), who works on robots that learn simple tasks and integrate them into more complex decision-making.

To give the new group the space and support needed to thrive, the North Building is being renovated into a specialized research laboratory dedicated to robotics. The higher ceiling of the facility provides the group ample room to use drones and other robots, and the space will be designed to meet their specifications.

Although renovations had not yet begun, the robotics group recently opened the doors to its new building to give a tour and describe some of the research they are working on. Check out some photos from the event below and learn more about their exciting projects.