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Current Research of Dr. James Schmiedeler

Dr. Schmiedeler's research interests fall broadly into the areas of kinematics, dynamics, and machine design, particularly as applied to the development of robotic systems and an understanding of human motor coordination.

Biped Robot Locomotion


Legged RobotLegged Robot 2Legged robots offer advantages in terms of mobility over uneven terrain and, particularly in the case of bipeds, mobility in human-centered environments. Fundamental challenges associated with biped robots include maintaining stability and minimizing power consumption in executing a variety of movements. Current work to address these challenges is divided into investigations of 1) steady-state walking and 2) dynamic maneuvers. ERNIE, a planar biped built in the lab, is the test bed for studying how to achieve walking gaits that are stable, robust, and efficient using the hybrid zero dynamics (HZD) control approach. KURMET, a second planar biped built in the lab, is the test bed for investigating non-steady-state dynamic maneuvers such as jumping using evolutionary techniques to design fuzzy controllers.

Human Motor Coordination and Robot-Assisted Rehabilitation

Stroke is a significant cause of disability in the U.S., and motor deficiencies in arm movement are particularly common among stroke survivors. The goal of this research is to better understand how healthy humans coordinate their motion in order to develop improved robot-assisted rehabilitation devices and approaches for people with coordination deficiencies due to stroke or spinal cord injury. The work emphasizes the time invariant aspects of human motor coordination to determine if coordination deficiencies stem from damage to a patient’s internal kinematic model of the motor apparatus, and if so, to develop robot-assisted rehabilitation techniques that specifically target this problem. A tabletop prototype robotic system is currently being used to study healthy human reaching and to evaluate/quantify the motor recovery of acute stroke patients.

Design of Shape-Changing Mechanisms

For a mechanical system whose function depends on its geometric shape, the ability to alter that shape in a controlled manner can enhance performance and expand applications. Example systems with such capabilities, often known as adaptive or morphing structures, include morphing airfoils, active aperture antennas, and deformable mirrors for adaptive optics systems. This research seeks to develop techniques for the kinematic design of mechanisms that can morph among an arbitrary number of shapes defined by open or closed curves and to build practical systems that take advantage of this ability.

Mechanical Energy Storage

The flow of energy in hybrid electric vehicles typically involves a number of energy conversions, each with its own efficiency losses. In regenerative breaking, for example, the shaft work of the axles is converted into electrical energy in a generator and then chemical energy for storage in a battery. This research seeks to develop novel ways of storing and reclaiming energy mechanically to eliminate the inefficiencies of such conversions.

Prosthetic Devices

As the number of amputees worldwide increases and the average age of amputees decreases, there is increased need for technological advances in these devices and how they are used so that amputees can regain maximal motor capabilities. This research seeks to apply techniques developed for robotic systems to improve the performance of prostheses.