Virtual LIDS Seminar Series – Aaron Ames (Caltech)

Tuesday, April 19
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Title: Safety-Critical Control of Dynamic Robots
Speaker: Aaron Ames (Caltech)
Date: Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Time: 4:00 pm EDT
Host: Prof. Saurabh Amin

Abstract: Guaranteeing safe behavior is a critical component of translating robots from a laboratory setting to real-world environments in an autonomous fashion.  With this as motivation, this talk will present a safety-critical approach to the control of dynamic robotic systems, ranging from ground robots to aerial robots to legged robots.  To this end, a unified nonlinear control framework for realizing safe dynamic behaviors will be presented.  Inspired by control Lyapunov functions, underlying this approach is an optimization-based control paradigm leveraging control barrier functions that provably guarantee safety (represented as forward set invariance).   This methodology will be framed in the context of autonomous systems, multi-layer control architectures, the use of onboard computation and sensors, and connections with learning to mitigate uncertainty and adapt to user preferences.  The application of these ideas will be demonstrated experimentally on a wide variety of robotic systems, including: bipedal and quadrupedal robots capable of achieving dynamic walking behaviors in natural environments, drones and legged robots with guaranteed safe behavior, and robotic assistive devices (including prostheses and exoskeletons) aimed at restoring mobility.

Biography: Aaron D. Ames is the Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems at the California Institute of Technology.  He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of St. Thomas in 2001, and he received a M.A. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley in 2006.  He served as a Postdoctoral Scholar in Control and Dynamical Systems at Caltech from 2006 to 2008, began his faculty career at Texas A&M University in 2008, and was an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical & Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology before joining Caltech in 2017.  At UC Berkeley, he was the recipient of the 2005 Leon O. Chua Award for achievement in nonlinear science and the 2006 Bernard Friedman Memorial Prize in Applied Mathematics. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2010, the 2015 Donald P. Eckman Award recognizing an outstanding young engineer in the field of automatic control, the 2019 Antonio Ruberti Young Researcher Prize awarded for outstanding achievement in systems and control, and his papers have received multiple best paper awards at top conferences on robotics and control.  His research interests span the areas of robotics, nonlinear control and hybrid systems, with a special focus on developing novel theory and experimentally validating these results on robotic platforms—including legged and aerial robots, prostheses, and exoskeletons—with the general goals of achieving safe and autonomous behavior on robotic systems, and improving the locomotion capabilities of the mobility impaired with robotic assistive devices

This talk is part of the LIDS Seminar Series. 

The 2021-22 LIDS Seminar Series is sponsored by LIDS alumnus, George H. Polychronopoulos, MS ’88, PhD ’92


  • Date: Tuesday, April 19
  • Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
  • Location: Zoom