Increasing Usability of Bipedal Robots for Urban Environments Through Penguin Data Analysis

Project Sponsor


The goal of this capstone project is to determine fundamental principles of locomotion on low friction terrains through data analysis on penguins and penguin-robots. Low friction terrains are commonly found in urban environments such as icy sidewalks and freshly mopped floors. This project aims to understand how penguins navigate those terrain types and how those methods can be implemented on robots. Statistical analysis and possibly machine learning will be used based on the level of experience of the students.

Category: Urban Health

Project Description & Overview

Bipedal robots have many applications to urban health. For example, they can be used in dangerous situations such as building fires to help rescue people trapped inside or delivering medications during winter storms. One major challenge in the development of bipedal robots for city use is their lack of stability on common terrain types. Many species of penguins (gentoo, emperor, chinstrap, etc.) spend a large amount of their lives walking on icy and snowy surfaces making them an ideal reference for navigating these terrain types. This research aims to analyze data sets on penguin waddling to understand key concepts that can be applied to a bipedal robot. The robot platform for this project is a 12-foot-tall penguin robot. Analysis will be performed on motion capture camera data of the robot to understand how the robot can be tuned according to the penguin motion. In addition, a literature review will be conducted to determine what key aspects of stability on low-friction terrain have been observed so far. Overall, the goal of this project is to enhance robot stability so they can be used in urban environments.


Multiple data sets on penguin waddling, motion capture data of a penguin robot, and penguin CT-scans are available to students working on the project.


Desired but not necessary skills include coding experience (preferably in R and/or Matlab), background in math, computer science, biology, engineering, or physics.

Learning Outcomes & Deliverables

  1. Determine how a penguin moves its flippers and body while it waddles and/or how changes in hardware (center of mass position) impact the movement of the penguin robot through data analysis
  2. Create a visual representation of findings such as a video or infographic