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Dr. Mahdi Haghshenas-Jaryani Receives NASA RIA Award

Dr. Paulo Oemig | Director | New Mexico Space Grant Consortium

Building up from a NM NASA EPSCoR seed award, Dr. Mahdi Haghshenas-Jaryani, Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Department, has secured $300,000 in funding (NASA award no. 80NSSC24K0839) to work on limbless robot locomotion for planetary and extreme environment missions. This funding is part of the NASA’s Research Initiation Awards (RIA) program. RIA is a Science Mission Directorate (SMD) program, which enables researchers from Minority Serving Institutions to expand their research infrastructure over the course of a two-year period to establish a sustainable project.


As part of his RIA project, Dr. Haghshenas-Jaryani will engage undergraduate students to gain invaluable first-hand knowledge in his Bio2Robotics lab. The project will research energy-efficient artificial muscle-driven limbless robot locomotion for planetary surface exploration. Dr. Haghshenas-Jaryani’s team has been able to dramatically improve the performance of muscle-driven mechanisms compared to conventional snake-like robots. This research will produce prototypes enhancing energy efficiency for extended, long-rage operations. Expanding the technological frontier of limbless robot locomotion on inhospitable terrains will require maximizing the dynamic performances of various muscle-driven snake robots and produce robust control algorithms for adaptive and optimal performance.

Limbless and pneumatic snake-like robots offer many advantages over conventional robots, their versatile mobility can address NASA’s needs in navigating difficult surfaces and tight spaces. They are affordable, lightweight, and thus can cover more terrain in swarm configurations. Dr. Haghshenas-Jaryani’s RIA project moves from fundamental knowledge to practical applications in the service of NASA’s space exploration. And his students will be contributing to this important work.