Thrishantha Nanayakkara’s current research interests are in legged locomotion of field robots that can learn, through interaction with humans and animals, to accomplish complex goals in an unstructured environment. At present, his main applications are in humanitarian land-mine detection in tropical environments. He has published his work in four book chapters, seven international journal papers, and twenty-six international conference papers.
At the Radcliffe Institute, Nanayakkara will study the dynamics of legged robotic locomotion and test how a robot can learn optimum navigation strategies by interacting with a rodent. He hopes both to build a micro-robot with rimless wheels to combine the strengths of legs and wheels and to train rodents to trace odor gradients to locate an odor source in a cluttered environment. He will make the robot follow the trained rodent through clutter in order to study how it can learn to optimize the dynamic interaction of legs with soft-terrain conditions.
Nanayakkara earned his bachelor’s degree with honors in electrical engineering from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka and his master’s in electrical engineering and doctorate in systems control and robotics from Saga University. He has been on the faculty of the University of Moratuwa, where he was the principal investigator of the Laboratory for Intelligent Field Robots and earned the outstanding researcher award in 2006. He has also been a visiting scholar in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Nanayakkara was the founding general chair of the International Conference on Information and Automation.