Aaron M. Johnson

Aaron M. Johnson
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

New Job: Assistant Professor March, 2016

I am excited to announce that I have accepted a tenure-track position in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University! I am so happy to be joining the wonderful faculty in this department and to have the opportunity to continue my research at this great institution.

Engineering Optimization Class Fall Semester, 2015

This fall I am 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 Tuesdays from 10:30-12:00 in Scaife Hall 320.

RSS Workshops July 16th-17th, 2015

At Robotics:Science and Systems this year I helped to organize two workshops: The first looked back at the 50th Anniversary of Shakey exploring the relationship between AI and robotics, and featuring talks by Peter Hart and Oliver Brock. The second explored Robotic Uses for Tails, where an impressive group of researchers from both biology and engineering came together to try and explore the many possible uses of appendages.

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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