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Biorobotics Seminar Series: Eliminating the Trade-off Between Stability and Maneuverability
Noah Cowan, Johns Hopkins University

Monday, April 29, 2013
1:30-2:30 p.m.
Life Sciences A (LSA) 191

There is often an inherent trade-off between resistance to changes in direction, called stability, and the ability to change direction, called maneuverability. This trade-off can be avoided using antagonistic forces. Kinematic data from the glass knifefish (Eigenmannia virescens), a mathematical model of its swimming dynamics, and experiments with a biomimetic robot show that the differential control of antagonistic forces is a strategy that produces stabilizing forces while nevertheless reducing the control effort for changing direction. Antagonistic forces during locomotion are found across animal species, suggesting that the dynamic design of animal morphology and their neural systems are tuned to enhance locomotor control.


Noah J. Cowan received a B.S. degree from the Ohio State University, Columbus, in 1995, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1997 and 2001–all in electrical engineering. Following his Ph.D., he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley for two years. In 2003, he joined the mechanical engineering department at Johns Hopkins

University, Baltimore, MD, where he is now an associate professor. His research interests include mechanics and multisensory control in animals and machines. Cow

an received the NSF PECASE award in 2010, the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in Complex Systems in 2012, and the William H. Huggins Award for excellence in teaching in 2004.


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