Devin Balkcom

Devin Balkcom on Robots and the Mechanics of Motion

This Focus on Faculty Q&A is one in an ongoing series of interviews exploring what keeps Dartmouth professors busy inside—and outside—the classroom.

Devin Balkcom, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, spends a lot of time thinking about the best way to get from here to there. Specifically, he studies the fundamental mechanics of locomotion and manipulation—the interface between robots and the physical world. In a recent conversation, Balkcom, who earned his PhD in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University, shared his views on optimal trajectories, knot tying, and the real reason humans should fear robots.

Here’s a basic question: What exactly is a robot?