Matthew Spenko, PhD

Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology




1043 ERF


In the robotics community, there is considerable interest in enabling mobile robots to operate in complex and challenging environments. This talk will highlight Prof. Spenko’s work in the field, which includes climbing robots, perching unmanned aerial vehicles, multi-modal robots, and unmanned ground vehicles operating in deformable soils. Specific attention will be paid to bio-inspired electrostatic/gecko-like adhesives that enable robots to climb on and unmanned aerial vehicles to perch on vertical surfaces. Both climbing and perching robots can be useful for sensor placement and long-term surveillance. The key is the design of controllable attachment mechanisms that can easily turn the adhesion on and off to allow the robot to move on the wall. There have been numerous solutions for climbing specific wall types (e.g. electromagnets for ferromagnetic walls); however, the specialized nature of these robots limits their usefulness. Instead, the Robotics Lab@IIT has developed controllable adhesives that can be applied to multiple different surface materials with varying roughness. The adhesives are composed of gecko-like fibrillar stalks with an electrostatic adhesive backing. The two technologies work well in combination, often providing an adhesion pressure that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Matthew Spenko is an associate professor in the Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering Department at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Prof. Spenko earned the B.S. degree cum laude in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University in 1999 and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001 and 2005 respectively. He was an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Scholar in the Mechanical Engineering Department’s Center for Design Research at Stanford University from 2005 to 2007. He has been a faculty member at the Illinois Institute of Technology since 2007 and received tenure in 2013. His research is in the general area of robotics with specific attention to mobility in challenging environments. Prof. Spenko is a member of IEEE and an associate editor of the Journal of Field Robotics. His work has been featured in popular media such as the New York Times, CNET, Engadget, and DiscoveryNews. Examples of his robots are on display in Robot Revolution, previously at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, now at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
Host: Dr. Kenneth Brezinsky

For more information, please contact Prof. Kenneth Brezinsky, kenbrez@uic.edu