Steve Collins, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Director, Stanford Biomechatronics Laboratory

Friday, Dec. 1st at 3:00pm
MEK 3550

ABSTRACT: Exoskeletons and active prosthetic limbs could improve mobility for hundreds of millions of people, but two serious challenges must first be overcome: we need ways of identifying what a device should do to benefit an individual user, and we need cheap, efficient hardware that can do it. In this talk, we will describe an approach to the design of wearable robots based on versatile emulator systems and algorithms that automatically customize assistance, which we call human-in-the-loop optimization. We will discuss recent successes of the approach, including large improvements to the energy economy and speed of walking and running through optimized exoskeleton assistance, in both laboratory and real-world settings. We will also discuss the design of exoskeletons that use no energy themselves yet reduce the energy cost of human walking, and a new type of actuator based on ultra-efficient electroadhesive clutches that could allow wearable robots to operate far longer with a given battery. Finally, we will briefly touch on the role of Science Robotics in publishing biomedical research, and on a new initiative to support design education: making@stanford.

BIO: Steve Collins is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and, by courtesy, Bioengineering at Stanford University, where he directs the Stanford Biomechatronics Laboratory. His research focus is speeding and systematizing the design of prostheses and exoskeletons using versatile emulator hardware (Zhang et al. 2017, Science) and algorithms for human-in-the-loop optimization (Slade et al., 2022, Nature). Another interest is efficient autonomous devices, such as passive-dynamic walking robots (Collins et al. 2005, Science) and unpowered exoskeletons (Collins et al. 2015, Nature).

Prof. Collins received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Cornell University in 2002 and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2008. He performed postdoctoral research at T. U. Delft. He was a professor of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University before joining Stanford in 2017. He is a member of the Boards of Dynamic Walking and Science Robotics. He has received the Young Scientist Award from the American Society of Biomechanics and the Best Medical Devices Paper from the International Conference on Robotics and Automation.

Prof. Collins teaches courses on design and robotics and acts as Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He is the Faculty Director of making@stanford, a University-wide initiative to enhance opportunities for students to learn through the design and making of physical artifacts. His teaching has been recognized with student-voted awards including the Tau Beta Pi Teaching Honor Roll, a Terman Mentorship award, and Professor of the Year in his department.​​​​