Event Location
2250 EB


Dr. James Tangorra
Associate Professor
Mechanical Engineering
Drexel University
Thursday, November 9, 2017
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
2250 EB

“Sensory Mediated Propulsion and Touch in Biorobotic Fins ”

Our studies of fish swimming have revealed that fish use their fins as propulsors and as sensors to swim and navigate by interacting with the fluid and actively contacting the environment. This functionality implies that the mechanics and the sensory and control systems of fins are not designed solely for propulsion, but evolved to satisfy a richer range of objectives.  Based on neuromechanical and behavioral studies of the sunfish, we have developed biorobotic models of the pectoral and median fins that produce the propulsive forces and gaits for steady swimming, hovers, and turns, and which are instrumented with distributed sensors to estimate fin forces and to couple closed-loop pattern generators to the fin’s dynamic interaction with the fluid. These models have been used to investigate sensory-mediated control of fins during swimming and touch and to learn how to exploit biological principles for high performance robotic systems. In this talk, I  will present our understanding of closed-loop control and swimming across the continuum from steady swimming, to maneuver, to unsteady touch and will propose a sensing and control framework for implementation in robotic fins. 
James Tangorra is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Drexel University and is the Director of Drexel’s Peace Engineering program. His research focuses on the integration of sensing, control and mechanics in animal movement, with specific interest in aquatic locomotion and human balance. Drexel’s Peace Engineering program trains engineers to work proficiently at the intersection of conflict management and peacebuilding.  The program is the result of a partnership between the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Peace-Tech Lab and Drexel’s College of Engineering that aims to transform peacebuilding using educational and research efforts that integrate engineering approaches with the studies and practices of peacebuilders.

Faculty Host:  Dr. Xiaobo Tan (

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