News: December 2023

News: October 2023

With the Fall 2023 semester well underway, my research students are working on some really cool projects related to motorcycle dynamics, control, and safety using our “Max1mus” platform (below). Students are working on:

  • Studying how rider lean affects motorcycle stability on uneven terrain like “ruts”
  • Using sensor fusion to accurately control a motorcycle’s lateral position in a road lane using only steering torque
  • Automatic starting and stopping of an autonomous motorcycle using steering control and an automatically deploying kickstand

To support their efforts, I’ve written an interactive model of motorcycle dynamics, along with a tutorial that derives the linear fourth-order model of motorcycle handling that we use in the lab to develop autonomous motorcycle controllers.

News: August 2023

With the help of research students Bryson Kronheim, Sam Milhaven, Ben Arky, Paris Francis, and Wenjia Li, my lab’s latest robot, a self-driving electric minibike, is now balancing and steering on its own! Based on a Razor MX350, the bike features a 3 N-m steering motor along with custom sensors and motor controllers all coordinated by a Raspberry Pi 4 running ROS2. The bike balances and steers itself using an inertial measurement unit for dynamic feedback and its steering motor for actuation. It counter-steers just like a human rider would to navigate turns. Have a look at the video below to see how we used the Webots simulation environment to predict the bike’s behavior during a constant-radius turn, followed by on-board video from the same experiment on the real bike.

About My Research

My scholarly work is interdisciplinary, often blending applied system dynamics and control theory with the study of vehicle dynamics, along with human and animal movement and behavior.  I hope my efforts to build models of dynamic interactions between biological and human-made systems will empower roboticists and control system engineers to design autonomous systems that work more safely and efficiently in collaborative environments.

Specifically, my work in modeling motorcycle dynamics and stability is aimed at developing and vetting modern rider-assist technology and understanding how humans control (and sometimes fail to control) motorcycles. My work in modeling goal-directed movements seeks to answer questions about how humans learn to perform critical high-speed, high-accuracy movements in the face of uncertainty by using experiments and models grounded in cybernetics and control theory. My simulation-based work modeling interactions between intelligent vehicles and deer on roadways attempts to answer questions about how to vet intelligent driver assist systems before they are released to the public. Finally, I hope my work modeling interactions between archerfish and a robotic facsimile might uncover basic principles about how various aspects of robot movement and design affect social interactions between robots and biological agents in critical cooperative tasks.

I have made it a point to steer my research program’s direction to remain accessible to undergraduate students at Lafayette while still making regular scholarly contributions. Students often play a major role in every facet of my research, and several of my undergraduate students have been coauthors on peer-reviewed journal papers published since coming to Lafayette.

About My Teaching

While research is fun and rewarding, especially when it involves students, the best part of my job at Lafayette is teaching! I truly love getting students excited about dynamics and control theory, which I try to do in the following courses:

  • ES103: Systems 1
  • ES302: Systems 3: Robotics
  • ME 352: Dynamics of Physical Systems
  • ME 480: Control Systems & Mechatronics
  • ME 479: Control Design & Analysis
  • ME 240: Dynamics
  • ME 497/498: Senior Project
  • ME 395: Special Topics in Mechanical Engineering– Mechatronics
  • ME 477: Motorsport Engineering


2 thoughts on “About

  1. Dear Dr Brown,

    Please excuse my out of the blue contact. I just wanted to say that I just read and enjoyed your recent article “Archerfish respond to a hunting robotic conspecific”. Wow! It is very exciting stuff, and seems to be very promising tech. It looks like the robot model may act as very useful ‘demonstrators’ which you can use to piece together the social learning mechanisms in archers. I just finished my PhD exploring social behaviour and learning in archers and really look forward to seeing what you do with your robots next.

    All the best,

  2. Dr. Jones,

    Thank you, and it’s great to hear from you! I’m familiar with your work; it’s awesome! Always happy to chat and exchange ideas.

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