Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Faculty Candidate Seminar


Fish, Robots, and Physics: How Fluid Mechanics Endows Underwater Robots with Embodied Intelligence.


Dr. Qiang Zhong


University of Virginia


Thursday, January 27, 2022 at 1:00:00 PM   Add to Calendar


MRDC Building, Room 4211


Dr. Minami Yoda


Fish-inspired robots may soon revolutionize the way we explore our planet’s oceans. But first, they will need to swim a lot better. The latest robofish have speeds and efficiencies approaching those of real fish in some conditions, but they still trail fish in terms of maneuverability, versatility, and stealth. One strategy for closing this performance gap is to endow robofish with embodied intelligence, i.e., intelligence that leverages the physics of fish-fluid systems. Embodied intelligence requires a strong bridge between physics and robotics. Physics-centered experiments (e.g., tethered airfoils in water channels) can uncover physical models, but they may oversimplify dynamics. Robotics-centered experiments (e.g., autonomous prototypes) offer realistic in situ conditions, but they may lack the precision needed to find physics-based patterns in the data. In this talk, I will present a new kind of semi-tethered water channel rig that we built to better connect physical models with the robofish they govern. Then we apply our approach to two ongoing areas of study in the world of robotfish: near-boundary swimming and tail stiffness. For near-boundary swimming, we discovered dynamic ground effect and developed a physics-driven control strategy that could improve thrust, efficiency, and stability near the ground. For tail stiffness, we explored the principle physics of stiffness effect and proposed a physics-driven stiffness tuning strategy that could double the swimming efficiency of a tuna-like robot.


Qiang Zhong is currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2021. He is interested in combining fluid mechanics and robotics to explore principle physics for high-performance robot development and offering deeper insights into biological locomotion. He has published ten high-quality journal papers, including Science Robotics, Journal of Fluid Mechanics, etc. He is a recipient of the University of Virginia John E. Scott award and the MAE Outstanding Graduate Student Award for his research progress in the fluid mechanics and robotics area. He is also the co-founder of the Intelligent and Bio-inspired Mechanics Seminar series.


Please join virtually via https://bluejeans.com/578472238/9432