Faculty Advisor

Alberto Rodriguez

Faculty Advisor

Raghvendra Cowlagi

Faculty Advisor

Cagdas Onal

Faculty Advisor

Dmitry Berenson


"A number of outstanding problems in robotic motion and manipulation involve tasks where degrees of freedom (DoF), be they part of the robot, an object being manipulated, or the surrounding environment, cannot be accurately controlled by the actuators of the robot alone. Rather, they are also controlled by physical properties or interactions - contact, robot dynamics, actuator behavior - that are influenced by the actuators of the robot. In particular, we focus on two important areas of poorly controlled robotic manipulation: motion planning for deformable objects and in deformable environments; and manipulation with uncertainty. Many everyday tasks we wish robots to perform, such as cooking and cleaning, require the robot to manipulate deformable objects. The limitations of real robotic actuators and sensors result in uncertainty that we must address to reliably perform fine manipulation. Notably, both areas share a common principle: contact, which is usually prohibited in motion planners, is not only sometimes unavoidable, but often necessary to accurately complete the task at hand. We make four contributions that enable robot manipulation in these poorly controlled tasks: First, an efficient discretized representation of elastic deformable objects and cost function that assess a ``cost of deformation' for a specific configuration of a deformable object that enables deformable object manipulation tasks to be performed without physical simulation. Second, a method using active learning and inverse-optimal control to build these discretized representations from expert demonstrations. Third, a motion planner and policy-based execution approach to manipulation with uncertainty which incorporates contact with the environment and compliance of the robot to generate motion policies which are then adapted during execution to reflect actual robot behavior. Fourth, work towards the development of an efficient path quality metric for paths executed with actuation uncertainty that can be used inside a motion planner or trajectory optimizer."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Robotics Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





path quality, learning from demonstration, inverse optimal control, robust execution, planning with uncertainty, deformable objects, robotic manipulation, motion planning