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Ezra's Round Table/Systems Seminar: Kirstin Petersen (Cornell ECE) - Designing Robot Collectives

Friday, February 16, 2018 at 12:15pm

Frank H. T. Rhodes Hall, 253

In robot collectives, interactions between large numbers of individually simple robots lead to complex global behaviors. A great source of inspiration is social insects such as termites and bees, where thousands of individuals coordinate to handle advanced tasks like food supply and nest construction in a remarkably scalable and error tolerant manner. Likewise, robot swarms have the ability to address tasks beyond the reach of single robots, and promise more efficient parallel operation and greater robustness due to redundancy. Key challenges involve both control and physical implementation. In this seminar I will discuss an approach to such systems relying on embodied intelligent robot collectives designed as an integral part of their environment. In this context I will discuss past and ongoing work on termite-inspired robotic construction of user-specified three-dimensional structures, work to enable cost-efficient soft robot collectives, and on-going work on robust bio-cyber physical systems based on swarms of honey bees.


Kirstin Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University; she is also a member of the Computer Systems Lab, and has field positions in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science. Her lab, the Collective Embodied Intelligence Lab, is focused on design and coordination of large robot collectives able to achieve complex behaviors beyond the reach of an individual, and corresponding studies on how social insects do so in nature. Major research topics include swarm intelligence, embodied intelligence, and autonomous construction. Before arriving at Cornell, Petersen did a postdoc with the Physical Intelligence Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany. She completed a Ph.D. in 2014 in computer science at Harvard University and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Her graduate work was featured in and on the cover of Science in February 2014, and was elected among the top ten scientific breakthroughs of 2014. Kirstin completed her M.Sc. in modern artificial intelligence in 2008 and a B.Sc. in electro-technical engineering in 2005, both with the University of Southern Denmark.

Event Type



College of Engineering, Systems Engineering, Engineering


engineering, systems engineering, College of Engineering





Kirstin Petersen

Speaker Affiliation

School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Cornell

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