Aaron M. Johnson

Aaron M. Johnson with some robots
I am an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering working on legged robots, adaptive controls, contact-rich manipulation, physics based planning, and terrain manipulation. My postdoc involved developing new manipulation planning algorithms on HERB in the Personal Robotics Lab, part of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. I earned my PhD working on self-manipulation and dynamic behaviors on legged robots (among other things) in Kod*lab, part of the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania. Before that I was an undergraduate student researching snake robots as part of the Biorobotics Lab, also at Carnegie Mellon University.

My research aims to design intelligent interactions between a robot and its environment. Thus far robots have been most successful in highly controlled environments such as factories designed around the limitations of the robot, or for extremely simple behaviors such as vacuuming flat floors without too many obstacles. But we need robots that are capable of performing useful behaviors in real environments, like our homes and offices, that are cluttered, complex, and changing dynamically. The only way we will ever have robots that can explore the world or help us in our homes is to study this behavior interaction between the robot and the environment. Unfortunately these interactions cannot be controlled directly but rather they can be controlled only through the design of the platform, sensors, and software such that when the robot is run in a given environment, the desired behavioral interaction results.

Recent News

TCS Hall Groundbreaking April 13th, 2017

The Robomechanics Lab was proud to participate in the groundbreaking for the new TCS Hall, named for the generous gift from Tata Consulting Services. PhD student Catherine Pavlov participated in the bricklaying, RHex delivered a brick, and Minitaur entertained the crowds.

Washington Post Article October, 2016

CMU-Silicon Valley professor Vivek Wadhwa and I wrote an article called, "Robots could eventually replace soldiers in warfare. Is that a good thing?" that appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Singularity Hub, among other venues. We discuss the moral implications of autonomous weapons systems and the need for a ban. The article is largely based on my Journal of Military Ethics paper.

Engineering Optimization Class Fall Semester, 2016

This fall I am again teaching "Engineering Optimization" (24-785/19-785), a graduate level class cross-listed in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy. This class will cover various mathematical optimization techniques and their application to engineering design problems. Students can find all course material on Blackboard. My office hours for this class are Wednesdays from 3:30-5:00 in Scaife Hall 326.

Popular Videos

More videos

RHex the Parkour Robot

X-RHex Lite running, leaping, and doing backflips around Penn's campus, using behaviors first presented at ICRA 2013, and featured in several videos.

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Tailed Behaviors

A new tail on X-RHex Lite allows it to land on its feet. "Tail assisted dynamic self righting" was first presented at CLAWAR 2012.

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WSJ Interview

Live video interview with Aaron Johnson on the Wall Street Journal's online program, News Hub. See more press coverage and interviews about leaping behaviors.

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