Howie Choset, 33
Carnegie Mellon University
Howie Choset built himself a “snakebot” named Schmoopie, but that’s not what sets him apart from colleagues. The mechanical engineer and roboticist has developed motion-planning algorithms that ensure his autonomous, multi-jointed snakes not only sense and respond to objects in their path but explore every nook and cranny as they traverse a terrain. Other path-planning algorithms leave room for ambiguity, but Choset’s provides for complete coverage. As a result, the U.S. Office of Naval Research is funding Choset to build robots that search for buried mines. Choset has equipped his bots with mine detectors; when they sense a mine, they map its location, then maneuver around it. Choset is also working with Ford Motor to develop robotic car-painting techniques that will save production time. During it all, he has developed the robotics minor at Carnegie Mellon University and says, “I would like to see this work get to the high-school and junior-high level and have students build robots to learn basic math and physics.” Choset also hopes his algorithms and theories will one day be used in non- robotic applications, such as predicting crime patterns.