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Abstract: Engineering design of robots is often inspired by nature; recently developed bioinspired robots accurately imitate various aspects of their live counterparts. Yet, the relationship between engineering and nature has often been one-directional: engineers borrow ideas from nature to build more efficient, more appealing, and better performing robotic systems for use in traditional human-centered applications. In some cases, these systems are used as proxies for studying the natural system, but whether these devices can be integrated within the 'ecological niche' inspiring their design seldom is experimentally tested. An even more elemental research question pertains to the feasibility of modulating spontaneous behavior of animal systems through bioinspired robotics. In this talk, we discuss recent research findings at the Dynamical Systems Laboratory of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University on the regulation of fish behavioral response using bioinspired robotic fish. Beyond presenting the engineering design and mathematical modeling of a miniature robotic fish for laboratory experiments, the talk will address fundamental scientific questions on animal-robot interactions. Some of the questions that will be addressed are: is fish behavioral response influenced by a robotic fish? What are the determinants of attraction of a robotic fish? What is the role of hydrodynamic effects and visual cues? Does the behavior of the robotic fish influence fish response? Do fish interact differently with a robotic fish depending on their 'personality'? Finally, current research directions and outreach programs related to Fish 'n' Robots will be discussed.
Bio: Maurizio Porfiri was born in Rome, Italy in 1976. He received M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Virginia Tech, in 2000 and 2006; a 'Laurea' in Electrical Engineering (with honours) and a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Rome 'La Sapienza' and the University of Toulon (dual degree program), in 2001 and 2005, respectively. From 2005 to 2006 he held a Post-doctoral position with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Virginia Tech. He has been a member of the Faculty of the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University since 2006, where he is currently an Associate Professor. He is engaged in conducting and supervising research on dynamical systems theory, multiphysics modeling, and underwater robotics. Maurizio Porfiri is the author of more than 100 journal publications and the recipient of the NSF CAREER award (Dynamical Systems program) in 2008. He has been included in the 'Brilliant 10' list of Popular Science in 2010. Other significant recognitions include an invitation to the Frontiers of Engineering Symposium organized by National Academy of Engineering in 2011 and the Outstanding Young Alumnus award by the college of Engineering of Virginia Tech in 2012.