Nicolaus A Radford


Nicolaus A Radford

PI, NASA-JSC DARPA Robotics Challenge and Valkyrie Project Manager
NASA Johnson Space Center
Houston, Texas

Brief Biography

Nicolaus Radford is currently the Principal Investigator and team leader for NASA-JSC's team in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC).  Formerly, he served as the Deputy Project Manager and Chief Engineer for Robonaut 2, an anthropomorphic humanoid robot, at NASA JSC‘s Dexterous Robotics Laboratory. He has extensive experience leading multi-disciplinary teams in challenging development timeline environments. Recently, he led the effort to redesign and space qualify R2 for the International Space Station, which was successfully completed in less than 6 months. He is also the Principal Investigator for NASA in DARPA-funded advanced electric machine research for robotics using Variable Flux Memory Motors (VFMMs). He also leads NASA‘s efforts in exoskeleton research for crew exercise and mobility assistance. His background is primarily in designing inverters for brushless DC motor control and distributed power. He graduated with a BSEE (2000) and a MSEE (2012) from Purdue University and is pursuing a Ph.D. at Purdue with Dr. Steven Pekarek in Optimal Design of Variable Flux Permanent Magnet Synchronous Machines for Humanoid Robots. He recently won the Granger Foundation Award for his work in electric machine research.

Building Real Robots for Real Work in Real Environments with Real Humans 

The challenges facing modern roboticists and robot engineers when deploying robotic systems into the real world to perform real work in a multi-agent setting are incredibly complex, varied and broad. These challenges stem from seminal robot system level issues like actuation, sensing, embedded computation, and power management to more high level and abstract challenges like safety, perception, task lexicons and multi-modal situational awareness. Worse yet, all these often serial features must harmoniously function for the robot to safely operate as intended and designed. Worse still, mastering these concepts challenge the most advanced robot designers in a laboratory setting, let alone the uniquely unforgiving real world. However, these hard problems continue to inspire an emerging industry which makes for a very exciting future.