Banerjee CAREER:

University of Illinois assistant professor Arijit Banerjee has received a National Science Foundation CAREER Award. (Illinois.edu photo)

The University of Illinois Jan. 25 announced that Arijit Banerjee, an assistant professor in the electrical and computer engineering department, was recently honored by the National Science Foundation with a CAREER Award.

Banerjee received the CAREER recognition for his work with bio-inspired design methods for distributed electromechanical actuators to emulate a biological spine, the university said.

This prestigious award supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization, the university said.

Banerjee's award-winning work focuses on creating a class of modular and distributed electromechanical actuators and developing a power network that will enable robots to be agile, efficient, and capable of reproducing biological motions that today are impossible, the university said.

"Our research envisions to advance power networks and actuators in robots to converge with the exploding capability of artificial intelligence and autonomous control, saving human lives and enhancing national security," said the Indian American researcher in a statement. "The integrated education and outreach plan aims to ignite curiosity in students about electromechanics and power electronics –foundations of our modern civilization – by using robotics as the catalyst."

Although state-of-the-art bio-inspired robots have achieved exquisite maneuvers, such systems have yet to closely replicate the grace, fluidity, and agility of their biological counterparts.

Banerjee's work tackles a critical need to re-imagine these robots as a complex network of electromechanical actuators by emulating a biological spine, it said.

A distributed actuator mimicking the spine mechanism will improve mobility, efficiency, and stability of robots in search, rescue, and recovery making them the first line of defense for disaster relief as well as surveillance reconnaissance, inspection, and exploration applications, the university report added.

By constructing a hardware prototype of a synthetic spine, the project plans to construct demonstration kits using research results that connect math and theory to the craft of real-world systems such as robots and automated systems, it said.

These demo kits will attract and inspire K-12 students, underrepresented groups, and a broader audience about electrical power and energy processing. The demo kits blueprint will also be shared with K-12 educators to help them teach their STEM clubs.

Banerjee's proposed framework is the basis to build a multi-disciplinary understanding of distributed actuators and their power network in robots and automated systems and to advance the robotics workforce through educational pathways, it said.

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