2024 Midwest Robotics Workshop (MWRW)

April 18–19, 2024

Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago
6045 S. Kenwood Avenue (map)
Chicago, IL 60637


The robotics field is experiencing tremendous growth as a result of algorithmic and technological advances, the availability of common, low-cost sensors and platforms, and a standardization in open-source development. These factors together with the growing community of talented, highly-trained roboticists combine to render feasible real-world applications in our homes and workplaces, and on our streets.

The Midwest Robotics Workshop (MWRW) is intended to bring together roboticists from academia and industry in and around the Midwestern United States. Building on successful workshops in 2016, 2017, and 2018 it is an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to share their work with others and to network, with the goal of creating a more cohesive and vibrant robotics community in the Midwest. The workshop will feature invited talks by leading researchers, and an exciting collection of oral presentations and interactive poster sessions.

There is no cost to attend the workshop. Additionally, we we are offering a limited number of student lodging grants for the night of April 18 in order to encourage participation from outside the Chicagoland area.

If you have any questions, please contact the organizers.

Call for Participation

We invite all roboticists from the Midwest (broadly interpreted) to participate in the second annual Midwest Robotics Workshop to be held at the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago (TTIC) on the University of Chicago campus (map) on April 18–19, 2024.

We encourage participants to use the workshop as an opportunity to present recent research either as a talk or during an interactive poster session. If you are interested in presenting, please submit a title and abstract summarizing your work. Since the workshop does not have published proceedings, abstracts that describe work that was previously published or is still in progress are welcome.

Keynote Speakers

Nancy Amato (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Nancy M. Amato is Head of the Computer Science Department and Abel Bliss Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received undergraduate degrees in Mathematical Sciences and Economics from Stanford, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois, respectively. Before returning to her alma mater in 2019, she was Unocal Professor and Regents Professor at Texas A–M University and Senior Director of Engineering Honors Programs.

Amato is known for algorithmic contributions to robotics task and motion planning, computational biology and geometry, and parallel and distributed computing. She has graduated 25 PhD students, with most going to faculty positions (12) or research positions in government or industry (9), and has worked with 30+ master's students, 100+ undergraduate researchers, and 10+ high school students. A majority of her students are from groups underrepresented in computing.

Amato has served in numerous leadership roles including CRA Board Chair (2021-2023), AAAS Section-T Chair (2021-2022), ACM Council Member-at-Large (2020-2024), and IEEE Robotics and Automation Society VP (2018-2021). She is dedicated to broadening participation in computing, and has served as CRA-WP Co-Chair (2014-2017), NCWIT Academic Alliance Co-Chair (2009-2011), and has Co-Directed the CRA-WP DREU program since 2000.

Her honors include the 2019 IEEE RAS Saridis Leadership Award in Robotics and Automation, the inaugural 2014 NCWIT Harrold/Notkin Research and Graduate Mentoring Award, and the 2014 CRA Haberman Award for contributions to increasing diversity in computing. She is a Fellow of the AAAI, AAAS, ACM, and IEEE.

Marcia O'Malley (Rice University)

Marcia O'Malley is the Thomas Michael Panos Family Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Bioengineering, and Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Rice University. Her research addresses issues that arise when humans physically interact with robotic systems, with a focus on wearable robotics and haptics for training and rehabilitation in virtual environments. She has twice received the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University. O'Malley was a recipient of both the ONR Young Investigator award and the NSF CAREER Award. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. At Rice, she has been recognized with Rice's Presidential Award for Mentoring, the Graduate Student Association Faculty Teaching and Mentoring Award, and the Rice University Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, Teaching, and Service.

Robert Wood (Harvard University)

Robert Wood is the Harry Lewis and Marlyn McGrath Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences in the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a National Geographic Explorer. Prof. Wood completed his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He is founder of the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, which houses expertise in multi-scale, multi-material fabrication for robots with features sizes ranging from sub-micrometer to meter and with arbitrary material combinations. His current research interests include microrobots, bioinspired and biomedical robots, soft robots, and robots for marine and space applications. He is the winner of multiple awards for his work including the DARPA Young Faculty Award, NSF Career Award, ONR Young Investigator Award, Air Force Young Investigator Award, Technology Review's TR35, and multiple best paper awards. In 2010 Wood received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama for his work in microrobotics. In 2012 he was selected for the Alan T. Waterman award, the National Science Foundation's most prestigious early career award. In 2014 he was named one of National Geographic's "Emerging Explorers", and in 2018 he was an inaugural recipient of the Max Planck-Humboldt Medal. Wood's group is also dedicated to STEM education by using novel robots to motivate young students to pursue careers in science and engineering.

Important Dates

March 15, 2024 Student Lodging Grant Application Deadline
March 15, 2024 Registration and Abstract Submission Deadline
April 18–19, 2024 Workshop


The workshop will start (with breakfast) at 08:30am on Thursday and will end with lunch on Friday. Breakfast and lunch will be provided both days. The program will include invited and contributed talks, as well as poster sessions.

The following times are subject to change.

Thursday, April 18

08:30–09:00am Breakfast (provided)
09:00am–09:15am Welcoming Remarks
09:15am–10:15am Keynote Talk (Chair: Dan Bruder)
Robert Wood (Harvard University)
Robots Need Bodies! The Mechanical Side of Artificial Intelligence
10:15am–11:55am Invited/Contributed Talks (Chair: Dan Bruder)
Kathryn Daltorio (Case Western Reserve University)
Mobile Manipulation with Crab Robots
Nok Wongpiromsarn (Iowa State University)
Establishing Correctness of Learning-Enabled Autonomous Systems
Bradly Stadie (Northwestern University)
Re-examining Actor Critic Methods in the 2020s
Mark Plecnik (University of Notre Dame)
The Purposeful Placement of Singularities
Jonathan Michaux (University of Michigan)
Safe Planning for Articulated Robots Using Reachability-based Obstacle Avoidance With Spheres
11:55am–01:00pm Lunch (provided)
01:00pm–02:00pm Keynote Talk (Chair: Girish Krishnan)
Nancy Amato (Unversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Sampling-Based Task and Motion Planning: From Robotic Manipulators to Intelligent CAD to Analyzing Proteins
02:00pm–04:00pm Invited/Contributed Talks (Chair: Ram Vasudevan)
Laura Blumenschein (Purdue University)
Understanding Morphology to Design Robust and Adaptable Soft Robots
Katie Driggs-Campbell (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Uncovering Structure in Interactions for Social Navigation
Pranav Bhounsule (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Data-driven Modeling and Control of Robots
Abdon Pena-Francesch (University of Michigan)
Modular Self-Propelled Microrobots Inspired in Semiaquatic Insects
Ryan Caverly (University of Minnesota)
Cable-Driven Robots: Control & Estimation Challenges and Space Applications
David Yunis (TTIC)
Subwords as Skills: Tokenization for Sparse-Reward Reinforcement Learning
04:00pm–05:30pm Poster Session I and Happy Hour

Friday, April 19

08:00am–09:30am Breakfast (provided) and Poster Session II
09:30am–10:30am Keynote Talk (Chair: Tim Bretl)
Marcia O'Malley (Rice University)
Wearable Robots that Teach and Learn with a Human Touch
10:30am–12:30pm Invited/Contributed Talks (Chair: Matt Walter)
Sarah Sebo (University of Chicago)
Designing Robots to Encourage Social Connections between People
Igor Gilitschenski (University of Toronto)
Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep?
Debdipta Goswami (The Ohio State University)
Cooperative Multi-UAV Swarm in an Uncertain Environment: A Markovian Mutual Information Based Approach
Josiah Hanna (University of Wisconsin—Madison)
Toward Deploying Reinforcement Learning with Confidence in Real-time and Dynamic Robotic Tasks
Myia Dickens (University of Notre Dame)
Within-subject Comparison of Gait Kinematics Using Passive, Microprocessor-controlled, and Powered Transtibial Prostheses
Milli Schlafly (Northwestern University)
Collaborative Robots Can Augment Human Cognition in Regret-Sensitive Tasks
12:30pm–02:00pm Lunch (provided) and Poster Session III

Poster Session I (Thursday)

  1. Marion Anderson (University of Michigan)
    Many Multi-Contact Collisions are Simpler Than Expected
  2. Thomas Berrueta (Northwestern University)
    Maximum Diffusion Reinforcement Learning
  3. Jiawei Chen (University of Michigan)
    A Synchronous Programming Language for Verifiable, Executable Robotics
  4. Sheng Cheng (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
    DiffTune: Auto-Tuning through Auto-Differentiation
  5. Nnamdi Chikere (University of Notre Dame)
    Innovative Strategies for Robotic Swimmers in Low Reynolds Number Environments: Insights from the Microscopic World
  6. Oluwami Dosunmu-Ogunbi (University of Michigan)
    Ascending New Heights: Enhancing Bipedal Robotic Locomotion through Stair Climbing
  7. Jiading Fang (Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago)
    Statler: State-Maintaining Language Models for Embodied Reasoning
  8. Eugenio Frias-Miranda (Purdue Unviersity)
    A Wearable Resistance Device’s Motor Learning Effects in Exercise
  9. Francesco Fuentes (Purdue University)
    Mapping Unknown Environments through Passive Deformation of Soft, Growing Robots
  10. Kendall Koe (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
    Detect2Grasp: Integrating Global and Local Visual Perception for Berry Manipulation with Low Cost Robots
  11. Omer Kurkutlu (University of Notre Dame)
    Investigating the Impact of Spinal Joint Dynamics on a Sprawling Robot Using Deep Reinforcement Learning
  12. He Li (University of Notre Dame)
    CAFE-MPC: A Cascaded-Fidelity Model Predictive Control Framework with Tuning-Free Whole-Body Control
  13. Shenggao Li (University of Notre Dame)
    Implicit Gait Optimization Using A*-Based Search and Differential Dynamic Programming
  14. Shuijing Liu (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
    DRAGON: A Dialogue-Based Robot for Assistive Navigation with Visual Language Grounding
  15. Chang Liu (University of Notre Dame)
    Enhancing Locomotion Energetics via the Design of Actuator Modules that Incorporates Kinematic Singularities
  16. Subramanian Ramasamy (University of Illinois at Chicago)
    Computationally Efficient Multi-Agent Optimization Framework for Online Routing of UAV-UGV System
  17. Shai Revzen (University of Michigan)
    Multi-legged Robot Motion is Simple
  18. Yu She (Purdue University)
    Touching the Future: High-resolution Tactile Sensing for Robotic Automation
  19. Shahbaz Peeran Qadri Syed (Oklahoma State University)
    Approximate Constrained Stochastic Optimal Control Via Parameterized Input Inference
  20. Daniel Torres (University of Illinois at Chicago)
    Towards a Unified Motion Planning Framework for Diverse Robotic Platforms: From Simulations to Real-World Applications
  21. Ruowen Tu (University of Michigan)
    Bio-Inspired, 3D Printed Feather Transducers for in Flight Aerodynamic Force and Vibration Sensing
  22. Ziyou Wu (University of Michigan)
    Efficient modeling of multi-legged locomotion with slipping
  23. Yufei Xi (University of Michigan)
    AU-SPARC: An Autonomous, Utethered, Soft, Proprioceptive, Agile Robot for 3-D Climbing and Exploration with Precise Trajectory Following
  24. Runze Zuo (University of Michigan )
    Embedded Valves for Distributed Control of Soft Pneumatic Actuators

Poster Session II (Friday Morning)

  1. Sheeraz Athar (Purdue University)
    VibTac: A Multi-Modal Tactile Sensing Finger for Robotic Manipulation
  2. Guillermo Colin Navarro (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
    Bipedal Robot Walking Control Using Human Whole-Body Dynamic Telelocomotion
  3. Sabyasachi Dash (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
    Enumerating Design Configurations for Reconfigurable Meshed Cellular Robots
  4. Salvador Echeveste (University of Illinois Chicago)
    Efficient Optimization of Exoskeleton Control Strategies for Hip-Centric Tasks
  5. Parker Ewen (University of Michigan)
    Multi-Modal Bayesian Inference for Semantic Classification and Property Prediction
  6. Zhe Huang (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
    Neural Informed RRT*: Learning-based Path Planning with Point Cloud State Representations under Admissible Ellipsoidal Constraints
  7. David Kelly (University of Notre Dame)
    Task-Level Control of Lower-Limb Prostheses
  8. Kitae Kim (Purdue University)
    P-AgBot: In-Row & Under-Canopy Agricultural Robot for Monitoring and Physical Sampling
  9. Seung Hun Lee (University of Michigan)
    Enhancing UGV Path Planning using Dynamic Bayesian Filtering to Predict Local Minima
  10. Juncheng Li (Purdue University)
    Sim-Suction: Learning a Suction Grasp Policy for Cluttered Environments Using a Synthetic Benchmark
  11. Sam O'Connor (University of Notre Dame)
    Approximate Synthesis for Spherical Four-bar Motion Generation
  12. Riki Osako (Illinois Institute of Technology)
    Understanding the Strengths and Weaknesses of Omnidirectional Ball Wheels Compared to Traditional Wheels in Challenging Terrain
  13. Allison Pinosky (Northwestern University)
    Sensor-Agnostic Embodied Active Learning
  14. Ryan Posh (University of Notre Dame)
    Improving Lower-Limb Prosthetic Ability with Hybrid Volitional Control
  15. Abigail Rafter (University of Michigan)
    Modeling of Human Fatigue in a Manufacturing-Like Setting
  16. Shashank Ramesh (Universitt of Notre Dame)
    A Direct-drive Five-bar Manipulator for Low Energy Consumption in Vertical Loading
  17. Carter Sifferman (University of Wisconsin—Madison)
    Unlocking the Capabilities of Time-of-Flight Proximity Sensors
  18. Kartikeya Singh (University at Buffalo)
    Using Robot's Physics to Learn Consistent Lidar Features for Robust Localization.
  19. William Sun (University of Wisconsin—Madison)
    Detecting and Localizing Small Objects with a Proximity Sensor
  20. Muchen Sun (Northwestern University)
    Probabilistic Optimality for Social Navigation
  21. Annalisa Taylor (Northwestern University)
    Stigmergic Coverage with a Robotic Collective
  22. Tyler Toner (University of Michigan)
    Sequential Manipulation of Deformable Linear Object Networks with Endpoint Pose Measurements using Adaptive Model Predictive Control
  23. Yash Turkar (University at Buffalo)
    Empir3D: A multi-dimensional point cloud quality assessment framework
  24. Jingxian Wang (Northwestern University)
    Rollbot: a Spherical Robot Driven by a Single Actuator
  25. Chun-Ming Yang (University of Illinois Chicago)
    Robust Model Predictive Control: Combining Control Lyapunov Function and Hamilton- Jacobi for Robust Control

Poster Session III (Friday Afternoon)

  1. Amal Alwatik (Illinois Institute of Technology)
    Design of an Open-Loop System of a Disk Shaped Robot Inspired by the Eccentrically Loaded Hopping Hoop Problem
  2. Jayanth Bhargav (Purdue University)
    AdverSAR—An Attentive Reasoning Framework for Multi-Agent Cooperative Navigation under Adversarial Communication
  3. Aaron Davis (Purdue University)
    Magnetic Microrobots for Active Drug Delivery and Micro-Manipulation
  4. Vaishnavi Dornadula (Northwestern University)
    Coachbot Swarm Testbed: A 100 Robot Autonomous and Remotely Accessible Platform for Testing Swarm Algorithms
  5. Sean Even (University of Notre Dame)
    Optimizing Robotic Gait Identification with Machine Learning and Shape Change Algorithms
  6. Albus Fang (University of Michigan)
    Mixed Reality Interface for Multi-robot Supervision
  7. Zariq George (University of Michigan)
    SPUR: Shared Perspectives for Unforeseen Response in Human-Robot Teams
  8. John Golden (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
    Optimizing Tendon Routing in Continuum Robots for Enhanced Dexterity and Workspace
  9. Seth Isaacson (University of Michigan)
    LONER: LiDAR Only Neural Representations for Real-Time SLAM
  10. Adedayo Jigida (University of Notre Dame)
    In-Socket Pressure Characteristics For Powered Transtibial Prostheses
  11. Siyu Li (University of Illinois Chicago)
    A scalable Control Framework for Centralized MicrostressBot: Group-based Control
  12. Christopher Luey (Northwestern University)
    Online Robotic Gait Learning using Generative Autoencoder
  13. Fiona Neylon (Northwestern University)
    Navigating Adaptive Design: Advancing the Body-Machine Interface for 6D Control in Assistive Applications
  14. John Nganga (University of Notre Dame)
    Accelerating MPC Algorithms for Quadrupeds for Enhanced Balance
  15. Ki-Hwan Oh (University of Illinois Chicago)
    A Framework For Automated Dissection Along Tissue Boundary
  16. Maxwell Patwardhan (Northwestern University)
    Environment Agnostic Robotic Manipulator
  17. Santosh Rajkumar (The Ohio State University)
    Linear MPC for Quadrotors: A Model-based Koopman Approach
  18. Katalin Schaffer (University of Notre Dame)
    Stretchable Pneumatic Sleeve for Adaptable, Low-Displacement Anchoring in Exosuits
  19. Ibne Farabi Shihab (Iowa State University)
    Advancing ADAS in Extreme Weather Conditions for Enhanced Road Safety
  20. Abu Nayem Md. Asraf Siddiquee (University of Notre Dame)
    Design and Development of Bioinspired Soft Modular Appendages for Object Manipulation and Locomotion in Multi-Legged Robots Across Terrestrial and Aquatic Environments
  21. Luzhe Sun (Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago)
    To the Noise and Back: Diffusion for Shared Autonomy
  22. Zhaohan Sun (Northwestern University)
    Intuitive Integrated Heads up Mode Display System
  23. Sylvia Tan (Northwestern University)
    A wearable and high spatiotemporal resolution haptic device
  24. Andrew Thompson (Northwestern University)
    An Evolution of Assistive Robot Control to Meet End-User Ability
  25. Xiaohao Xu (University of Michigan)
    Customizable Perturbation Synthesis for Robust SLAM Benchmarking
  26. Zhengtong Xu (Purdue University)
    LeTac-MPC: Learning Model Predictive Control for Tactile-reactive Grasping
  27. Yang Yang (Purdue University)
    Biodegradable Shape-Morphing Swimmers For Drug Delivery
  28. Yuhao Zhou (Purdue University)
    In-Hand Singulation and Scooping Manipulation with a 5 DOF Tactile Gripper


There are several hotels nearby the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, where TTIC is located. These include:

There are also several reasonable options in downtown Chicago, such as Hotel Felix.

Lodging Grants: We will provide a limited number of grants for student lodging at a nearby hotel for the night of April 18. Please see the Registration section for information on how to apply.

Parking: Free parking is available in the commuter parking lot at 60th St. and Stony Island Ave. and free street parking on many streets near TTIC (just beware of "permit parking" and "street cleaning" signs!). Parking can be found on 61st Street (between Woodlawn Ave and Blackstone Ave), on Dorchester Street (between 60th and 61st Streets).


Registration: If you are interested in presenting your work as a poster or talk, or would like to simply attend the workshop, please sign up here. There is no cost to register. Please note that the schedule is pretty tight, so we may not be able to honor every presentation request.

Lodging Grants: We are awarding a limited number of lodging grants for students from outside the Chicagoland area who would like to attend. The grants will provide a one-night stay at a nearby hotel on April 18. Please fill out this form if you would like to apply.


Timothy Bretl (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Daniel Bruder (University of Michigan)
Girish Krishnan (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Ram Vasudevan (University of Michigan)
Matthew Walter (TTIC)