IRIM Robotics Seminar–Brenna D. Argall

Northwestern’s Brenna Argall presents “Turning Assistive Machines into Assistive Robots” as part of the IRIM Robotics Seminar Series. The event will be held in the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute Auditorium from 12-1 p.m. and is open to the public.


For decades, the potential for automation—in particular, in the form of smart wheelchairs—to aid those with motor or cognitive impairments, has been recognized. It is a paradox that often the more severe a person's motor impairment, the more challenging it is for them to operate the very assistive machines that might enhance their quality of life. A primary aim of my lab is to address this confound by incorporating robotics autonomy and intelligence into assistive machines—turning the machine into a kind of robot and offloading some of the control burden from the user. Robots already synthetically sense, act in and reason about the world, and these technologies can be leveraged to help bridge the gap left by sensory, motor, or cognitive impairments of the users of assistive machines. This talk will provide an overview of some of the ongoing projects in my lab, which strives to advance human ability through robotics autonomy.


Brenna Argall is the June and Donald Brewer Junior Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at Northwestern University and also an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. She also holds a faculty research scientist position within the Sensory Motor Performance Program (SMPP) at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), where she directs a rehabilitation robotics laboratory.

Prior to joining Northwestern and RIC, Argall was a postdoctoral fellow (2009-2011) in the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory (LASA) at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland under the guidance of Prof. Aude Billard. In the spring of 2009, Argall completed a Ph.D. in Robotics with co-advisors Prof. Manuela Veloso and Dr. Brett Browning in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where she was affiliated with the CORAL Research Group.

Argall has lived in Doha, Qatar (Spring 2007), while assistant teaching at Carnegie Mellon's Qatar Campus, and in Brisbane, Australia (Summer 2008), while serving as a research intern with the Autonomous Systems Laboratory at CSIRO. Her M.S. in Robotics (2006), and B.S. in Mathematics (2002), along with minors in Music and Biology, were granted by Carnegie Mellon. Prior to attending graduate school, Argall held a computational biology position in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her research interests lie at the intersection of robotics, machine learning, and rehabilitation, particularly on adding partial automation and artificial intelligence to assistive machines that are modular, adaptable, and teachable in how they share control with the human user.

Event Details


  • Wednesday, January 21, 2015
    11:00 am - Thursday, January 22, 2015
    11:59 am
Location: Manufacturing Institute Auditorium

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