Sarah Hensley

Sarah  Hensley
MIT EECS Angle Undergraduate Research and Innovation Scholar
Advisor: Russell L. Tedrake
Department: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Years: 2016-2017

Balance and Force Control for NASA's Humanoid: Valkyrie

This project evaluates the force and torque control capabilities of Valkyrie NASA's humanoid robot and entry in the DARPA Robotics Challenge. Valkyrie has series elastic actuators. The elasticity of the springs in the actuators produces nonlinear behaviors when many series elastic actuators are linked together to form neighboring joints. Currently decentralized control is used to control the actuators; each actuator individually receives input commands that do not account for the position or input commands of the others. Centralized control would allow each actuator to use information from the other actuators to adjust the input commands. Thus a model that accounts for having many connected actuators would improve control of the robot allowing for more dynamic and precise motions.

The SuperUROP program gives me a chance to apply the material of my favorite classes while also experiencing "real world research" — a long-term open-ended project that I direct. I did research at the Jet Propulsion Lab and saw the DARPA Robotics Challenge last summer but I never thought I'd get a chance to work on NASA's entry Valkyrie! I get to work on a dream project while also learning about research in robotics!