2018 Midwest Robotics Workshop (MWRW)

June 14–15, 2018

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 and 2017, 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 June 14 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 TTI-Chicago on the University of Chicago campus (map) on June 14–15, 2018.

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

Ella Atkins (University of Michigan)

Cyberphysical Flight Planning for Nominal and Emergency Situations

Dr. Ella Atkins is a Professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan, where she is director of the Autonomous Aerospace Systems (A2SYS) Lab. Dr. Atkins holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan. She previously served on the Aerospace Engineering faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Atkins is past-chair of the AIAA Intelligent Systems Technical Committee, AIAA Associate Fellow, IEEE senior member, small public airport owner/operator (Shamrock Field, Brooklyn, MI) and private pilot. She served on the National Academy's Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) (2011-2015 term), was a member of the Institute for Defense Analysis Defense Science Studies (DSSG) Group (2012-2013), and recently served on an NRC committee to develop an autonomy research agenda for civil aviation (2013-2014).

Louis Whitcomb (Johns Hopkins University)

Development of Nereid Under-Ice Underwater Robot and Exploration of the Karasik Seamount in the Arctic Ocean

Louis L. Whitcomb is Professor and former Chairperson of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, with secondary appointment in Computer Science, at the Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering. He is an Adjunct Scientist, Department of Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He completed a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering in 1992 at Yale University. From 1984 to 1986 he was a R&D engineer with the GMFanuc Robotics Corporation in Detroit, Michigan. He joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Johns Hopkins University in 1995, after post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Tokyo and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. His research focuses on the navigation, dynamics, and control of robot systems — with applications to robotics in extreme environments including space and underwater robots. Whitcomb is a co-principal investigator of the Nereus and Nereid Under-Ice Projects. He is former (founding) Director of the JHU Laboratory for Computational Sensing and Robotics. He received teaching awards at Johns Hopkins in 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2011, was awarded a NSF Career Award, and an ONR Young Investigator Award. He is a Fellow of the IEEE.

Important Dates

June 1, 2018 Student Lodging Grant Application Deadline
June 1, 2018 Abstract Submission Deadline
June 14–15, 2018 Workshop


The workshop will start (with breakfast) at 10:00am on Thursday to allow time for people to commute to Chicago in the morning. It 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, June 14

10:00am–10:40am Breakfast (provided)
10:40am–11:00am Welcoming Remarks
11:00am–12:00pm Keynote Talk (Chair: Ram Vasudevan)
Ella Atkins (University of Michigan), Cyberphysical Flight Planning for Nominal and Emergency Situations
12:00pm–01:00pm Lunch (provided)
01:00pm–03:00pm Invited/Contributed Talks (Chair: Jonathan Kelly)
Ramviyas Parasuraman (Purdue University), Herding Mobile Robots in Multiple Groups
Mohamed Ali Belabbas (UIUC), A New Homotopy Method for Motion Planning
Volkan Isler (University of Minnesota), Robotic Data Gathering in Agriculture
Patrick Wensing (Notre Dame), Predictive Models of Locomotion - From Dynamic Robots to Assistive Exoskeletons
Audrey Sedal (University of Michigan), A Continuum Model for Fiber-Reinforced Soft Robot Actuators
Georges Adam (Purdue University), Advanced Magnetic Microrobots with Real-Time Sensing Capabilities for Biomedical Applications
03:00pm–04:20pm Poster Session I and Break
04:20pm–06:00pm Invited/Contributed Talks (Chair: Matthew Johnson-Roberson)
Xin Chen (HERE Technologes), HD Live Maps for Automated Driving: An AI Approach
Jonathan Kelly (University of Toronto), Online Mobile Manipulator Self-Calibration Through Visual and Contact Sensing
Brent Griffin (University of Michigan), Real-Time Perception for Vocally-Specified Mobile Manipulation Tasks
David Yunis (University of Chicago), Jointly Learning to Construct and Control Agents using Deep Reinforcement Learning
Brian Ziebart (University of Illinois at Chicago), Imitation Games for Learning to Make or Predict Sequential Decisions

Friday, June 15

08:30am–10:00am Breakfast (provided) and Poster Session II
10:00am–11:00am Keynote Talk (Chair: Matthew Walter)
Louis Whitcomb (Johns Hopkins University), Development of Nereid Under-Ice Underwater Robot and Exploration of the Karasik Seamount in the Arctic Ocean
11:00am–01:00pm Invited/Contributed Talks (Chair: Michael Zinn)
Timothy Bretl (UIUC), What Use Are Fiducial Markers in Structure-from-Motion
Matthew Spenko (Illinois Institute of Technology), Navigation Safety for Mobile Robots
Elliott Rouse (University of Michigan), Mechanical Impedance and a New Generation of Wearable Robots
Nili Krausz (Northwestern University), Novel Control and Intent Recognition Approaches for Lower Limb Prostheses based on Computer Vision
Elizabeth Hsiao-Wecksler (UIUC), Design and Control of the Portable Powered Ankle-Foot Orthosis (PPAFO)
Amy LaViers (UIUC), On the Function of Expressive Robotic Systems (aka the Utility of Dancing Robots)
01:00pm–01:10pm Closing Remarks
01:10pm–03:00pm Lunch (provided)

Poster Session I (Thursday)

  1. Sree Kalyan Patiballa and Gaurav Singh (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Designing Pneumatic Building Blocks for Soft Robots
  2. Adith Boloor (Washington University in St. Louis), PiCar
  3. Nicholas Thompson (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Augmented Joint Stiffness and Actuation using Architectures of Soft Pneumatic Actuators
  4. Yinyan Pei (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Revised Design of a Passive Hydraulic Training Simulator of Biceps Spasticity
  5. Amanda Shorter (Northwestern University), Ankle Impedance Varies with Ambulatory Task
  6. Ross Hartley (University of Michigan), Contact-Aided Invariant Extended Kalman Filtering for Legged Robot State Estimation
  7. Elizabeth Olson (University of Michigan), Deep Learning for Disparity Estimation of Underwater Images with Synthetic Data
  8. Patrick Dills (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Design and Analysis of a High Performance Impedance Based Hybrid Haptic Interface
  9. Yanran Ding (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Design and Experimental Implementation of a Proprioceptive Leg for Optimized Jumping
  10. Bi Chenghao (Purdue University), Design of Microscale Magnetic Tumbling Robots for Locomotion in Multiple Environments and Complex Terrains
  11. Sangjun Lee (Purdue University), Direction of Arrival Estimation-aided Cyberattack Detection in Multi-Robot Systems
  12. Shaocheng Luo (Purdue University), Environmental Operations with Multi-robot Systems
  13. Zhenyu Gan (University of Michigan), Exploring the Quadrupedal Asymmetrical Gaits
  14. Hua Chen (The Ohio State University), Feedback Motion Planning for Hybrid Dynamical Systems
  15. Mike Hagenow (University of Minesota, Madison), Inquiry-Based Labs for an Introductory Continuous Controls Class
  16. Wenbo Dong (University of Minnesota), Semantic Mapping for Orchard Environments
  17. Alexandra Bacula (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Character Recognition on a Humanoid Robotic Platform via Laban Movement Analysis

Poster Session II (Friday)

  1. Daniel Bruder (University of Michigan), Model-based Control of Parallel Combinations of Soft Actuators
  2. Andrea Daniele (TTI-Chicago), A Multiview Approach to Learning Articulated Motion Models
  3. Bowen Weng and Hao Li (The Ohio State University), Model-free Continuous Control with Piecewise Quadratic Neural Network
  4. Bolun Zhang (University of Wisconsin, Madison), MR Compatible Haptic Interface
  5. Tianshuang Gao (Iowa State University), Multi-Robot Coordination and Planning for Spatio-Temporal Data Collection and Estimation
  6. Chembian Parthiban (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Performance and Stability Limitations of Admittance-Based Haptic Interfaces
  7. Shannon Danforth and Patrick Holmes (University of Michigan), Perturbative Sit-to-Stand Experiment for Validating Quantitative Method of Stability Estimation
  8. Chenzhang Xiao (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Pneumatic Ergonomic Crutches: A Self Contained Soft Robotic Energy Harvesting Platform
  9. An Zhou (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Power Distribution and Management of Mobile Robot
  10. Vincent Kurtz (University of Notre Dame), Predicting Obstacle Motion in Real Time with Recurrent Neural Networks for Collision Avoidance in Unstructured Environments
  11. Seung Yun (Leo) Song (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Quantification of Abnormal Hypertonic Muscle Behavior Using Wearable Measurement Device (PVRM - Position, Velocity, Resistance Meter)
  12. Buru Subramani (University of Wisconsin, Madison), Recognizing Geometric Constraints in Human Demonstrations using Force and Position Signals
  13. Matthew Porter (University of Michigan), Resilient Control Through Dynamic Watermarking
  14. Akshay Bhardwaj (University of Michigan), Role Determination Through Power Exchange in Physical Human Robot Interaction
  15. Umer Huzaifa (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Stylistic Gait Design from a Planar Robot Model with Core Actuation
  16. Sean Vaskov (University of Michigan), The FRS Method: Provably Safe, Real-Time Trajectory Planning for Autonomous Vehicles
  17. Blin Nassime (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), CI-RRT: Choreographic Interactive Motion Planning


There are two hotels nearby TTI-Chicago that provide shuttle service throughout the University of Chicago campus: The Hyatt Place Chicago-South and the LaQuinta Inn & Suites Chicago Lake Shore. There are also several reasonable options in downtown Chicago, such as Hotel Felix.

We will provide a limited number of grants for student lodging at a nearby hotel for the night of June 14. 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).


Please register for the workshop here. There is no cost to register.

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 June 14. Please fill out this form if you would like to apply.


Matthew Walter (TTI-Chicago)
Ram Vasudevan (University of Michigan)