GT MAP Seminar: Prof. Patricio Vela (ECE)

This is a part of GT MAP activities. There will be light refreshments through out the event. This seminar will be held at Skiles 006.


3:00 PM - 3:45PM  Prof. Patricio Vela will give a talk  on

    Revisiting Averaging Theory for Control of Biologically Inspired Robots

3:45PM -- 4:00PM Break with Discussions

4:00PM - 4:45PM  The second talk will be given by Alexander H. Chang on

           Modeling and Control of Robotic Snakes

4:45PM - 5PM Discussion of open problems stemming from the presentations.


First Talk Title: Revisiting Averaging Theory for Control of Biologically Inspired Robots

Abstract: Robotic locomotive mechanisms designed to mimic those of their biological counterparts differ from traditionally engineered systems. Though both require overcoming non-holonomic properties of the interaction dynamics, the nature of their non-holonomy differs.  Traditionally engineered systems have more direct actuation, in the sense that control signals directly lead to generated forces or torques, as in the case of rotors, wheels, motors, jets/ducted fans, etc. In contrast, the body/environment interactions that animals exploit induce forces  or torque that may not always align with their intended direction vector.Through periodic shape change animals are able to effect an overall force or torque in the desired direction. Deriving control equations for this class of robotic systems requires modelling the periodic interaction forces, then  applying averaging theory to arrive at autonomous nonlinear control models whose form and structure resembles that of traditionally engineered systems. Once obtained, classical nonlinear control methods may be applied, though some  attention is required since the control can no longer apply at arbitrary  time scales.The talk will cover the fundamentals of averaging theory and efforts to identify a generalized averaging strategy capable of recovering the desired control equations. Importantly, the strategy reverses the typical approach to averaged expansions, which significantly simplifies the procedure. Doing so  provides insights into feedback control strategies available for systems controlled through time-periodic signals.


Second Talk Title: Modeling and Control of Robotic Snakes

Speaker: Alexander H. Chang (GT ECE)

Abstract: Robotic snakes have the potential to navigate areas or environments that would be more challenging for traditionally engineered robots. To realize their potential requires deriving feedback control and path planning algorithms applicable to the diverse gait modalities possible. In turn, this requires equations of motion for snake movement that generalize across the gait types and their interaction dynamics. This talk will discuss efforts towards both obtaining general control equations for snake robots, and controlling them along planned trajectories. We model three-dimensional time- and spatially-varying locomotion gaits, utilized by snake-like robots, as planar continuous body curves. In so doing, quantities relevant to computing system dynamics are expressed conveniently and geometrically with respect to the planar body, thereby facilitating derivation of governing equations of motion. Simulations using the derived dynamics characterize the averaged, steady-behavior as a function of the gait parameters. These then inform an optimal trajectory planner tasked to generate viable paths through obstacle-strewn terrain. Discrete-time feedback control successfully guides the snake-like robot along the planned paths.


BIO:  Prof. Patricio Vela was born in Mexico City, Mexico and grew up in California. He earned his bachelor of science degree in 1998 and his doctorate in 2003 at the California Institute of Technology, where he did his graduate research on geometric nonlinear control and robotics. Dr. Vela came to Georgia Tech as a post-doctoral researcher in computer vision and joined the ECE faculty in 2005.

His research interests lie in the geometric perspectives to control theory and computer vision. Recently, he has been interested in the role that computer vision can play for achieving control-theoretic objectives of (semi-)autonomous systems. His research also covers control of nonlinear systems, typically robotic systems.

Research interests: 
  • Geometric estimation and control
  • Computer vision
  • Robotics
  • Applied differential geometry and geometric mechanics.
  • Biologically inspired mechanics and computer vision

Event Details


  • Friday, April 14, 2017
    3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location: Skiles 006, Atlanta, GA

For More Information Contact

Sung Ha Kang