Robotics Colloquium: Speaker Chad Jenkins

Topic: Defining the Discipline of Robotics for Excellence and Equity through Bipedal Mobile Manipulation

Abstract: Start with a simple question: What is the best major for a student to become a roboticist?  In general, an undergraduate major defines the intellectual organization for its academic discipline to produce “people and ideas.”  In my role leading the Robotics Undergraduate Program at Michigan, we tackled this question through the curricular challenge of how to both: 1) educate people to put ideas of the robotics discipline into practice and 2) endow them with the intellectual lens for creating new ideas that extend the frontiers of the robotics discipline -- including research into mobility and manipulation in the real world.

As part of our larger Robotics Pathways model, The Robotics Major at the University of Michigan was successfully launched in the 2022-23 academic year as an innovative step forward to better serve students, our communities, and our society. Building on our guiding principle of "Robotics with Respect" -- the Michigan Robotics Major was designed to define robotics as a true academic discipline with both equity and excellence as our highest priorities. The Michigan Robotics Major has embraced an adaptable curriculum that is accessible through a diversity of student pathways and enables successful and sustained career-long participation in robotics, AI, and automation professions.  

In this talk, I will present our design, launch, and innovations for the Michigan Robotics Major for undergraduates and our research progress toward humanoid mobile manipulation systems.  A number of curricular innovations will be presented such as: bringing mathematics to life through computational linear algebra (before calculus!), elevating core robotics concepts into compelling sophomore and junior-level courses, creating our affordable and accessible MBot platform for capable of fully autonomous navigation, and Distributed Teaching Collaboratives with Minority Serving Institutions.  I will also present our work for perception and planning with the Agility Robotics Digit robot towards realizing the long-standing vision of taskable autonomous humanoid robots capable of mobile manipulation tasks in common human environments.

Bio: Chad Jenkins is a Professor of Robotics and a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan.  Prof. Jenkins is the inaugural Program Chair of the Robotics Major Degree Program launched in 2022 for undergraduates at the University of Michigan. Prof. Jenkins is currently serving as Editor-in-Chief for the ACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). 

Professor of Robotics; Professor of EECS (courtesy) at the University of Michigan

Host: Karthik Desingh


Start date
Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, 2:30 p.m.
End date
Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, 4 p.m.

In-Person: Drone Lab: 164 Shepherd