Today’s podcast features Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis interviewing their colleague, Dr. Jerry Pratt, a senior research scientist at IHMC who heads up the institute’s robotics group. In 2015, Jerry led an IHMC team that placed second out of 23 teams from around the world in the first-ever DARPA Robotics Challenge. IHMC also placed first in the competition which featured humanoid robots that primarily walked bipedally and first among all U.S. teams.
Jerry is a graduate of MIT, where he earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science in 2000. As a graduate student at MIT, Jerry built his first robot which was also one of the first bipedal robots that could compliantly walk over rough terrain.
As you will learn in today’s interview, it was called “Spring Turkey” and is on display in MIT’s Boston museum. The second robot he built as a graduate student was called “Spring Flamingo,” and is on display in the lobby of IHMC’s Fred Levin Center in Pensacola.
After graduation, Jerry and some MIT colleagues founded a small company called Yobotics, which specialized in powered prosthetics, biomimetic robots, simulation software and robotic consulting.
He joined IHMC in 2002 and has become a well-known expert in bipedal walking. His algorithms are used in various robots around the world. Recent work on fast-running robots has resulted in ostrich-inspired running models and robot prototypes that are currently believed to be the fastest running robots in the world.
Jerry has six U.S. patents and was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. He lives in Pensacola with his wife Megan and their two children. He and he wife founded a science museum called the Pensacola MESS Hall, which stands for math, engineering, science, and stuff. The MESS Hall is a hands-on science museum for all ages that just celebrated it's five-year anniversary.