Peek behind the curtain at IHMC’s April 2024 Open House

For Dr. Robert Griffin, the question isn’t why he came to Pensacola to work in the robotics lab at Florida IHMC.

It’s why he stays.

“I stayed because we have a phenomenal team, and we try and remove the formality from work to allow us to focus on the things to be done, and how to enjoy that process,” he said. “We also place a high value on intellectual freedom that we enjoy here. Basically, if we can convince someone to fund it, we can pursue it. That’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Dr. Robert Griffin, IHMC Research Scientist

On April 11, 2024, Griffin will be among dozens of researchers, roboticists, engineers, cognitive scientists, and human performance experts who will share what they love about IHMC during Open House for National Robotics Week.

From 3 to 7 p.m., Institute for Human and Machine Cognition staff will welcome families, students, and the public for tours, walk-throughs, and inspiration on the Pensacola campus on South Alcaniz Street. The final tour begins at 6:30 p.m.

The family-friendly event encourages scientific discovery through hands-on activities, challenges, and demonstrations while providing the opportunity to learn. Visitors will meet IHMC researchers and see first-hand their work in drones, robotics, virtual reality experiences, human performance research projects, data visualization, and more.

In 2017, when Griffin was graduating with a Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, he had two choices for pursuing his work researching mobility control for humanoid robots and exoskeletons: Pensacola or Boston.

There is no question he has made the most of his choice.

“We have one of the best facilities for legged robots in the world and have been very fortunate to be able to pursue that,” he said. “We are a major part of the community here, and we can tell that Pensacola loves us and has been good to us.”

Open House is a way for the IHMC team to return that love.

National Robotics Week was established by Congress in 2010 and aims to bring together students, educators, and influencers who share a passion for robots and technology.

While the robotics lab at the Levin Center for IHMC Research is an open-house highlight, the event also features the Healthspan, Resilience, and Performance (HRP) team.

Dr. Marcas Bamman, the senior research scientist who leads the HRP team, was director of a world-leading research center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In 2020, he joined IHMC to help build an exciting and innovative research program spanning numerous disciplines including physiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, rehabilitation, psychology, environmental stress, and regenerative medicine.

Dr. Marcas Bamman, Senior Research Scientist.

“I was drawn here by IHMC’s vision to establish a capstone research program focused on advancing knowledge in human healthspan, resilience and performance in a truly interdisciplinary manner,” said Bamman. “We are bringing together everything from clinical and applied research to rehabilitation to molecular and biological analysis. Our research leverages knowledge gained from the level of a molecule to the performance of a whole human.”

Later this year, the HRP team will move into a nearly completed $40 million research complex that will exponentially expand research capacity and have a tremendous impact on Northwest Florida’s regional economy.

“IHMC fosters a unique environment in which scientists can walk across the hall and tap into the expertise of leaders in AI, computer science, robotics and the many subdisciplines of HRP. Our best days in science are those in which we learn from one another, and our goal at IHMC is to learn without limits,” Bamman says.

IHMC is a not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System where researchers pioneer science and technology aimed at leveraging and extending human capabilities. IHMC researchers and staff collaborate extensively with the government, industry and academia to help develop breakthrough technologies. IHMC research partners have included: DARPA, the National Science Foundation, NASA, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Institutes of Health, IBM, Microsoft, Honda, Boeing, Lockheed, and many others.