Applied Autonomy and Mechatronics Research Laboratory


Applied Autonomy and Mechatronics Research Lab

Wicks teaching pic

Department of Mechanical Engineering
114 T Randolph Hall
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061

All Wicks

Associate Professor
We are the Applied Autonomy and Mechatronics Lab at Virginia Tech…”Creating Practical Engineering Solutions”

This lab focuses on creating practical engineering solutions by integrating sensors and microcontrollers in to military and medical applications. Dr. Al Wicks, our advisor, has a background in autonomous vehicles, pediatric medical devices, experimental modal analysis, digital signal processing, golf club dynamics, laser-based transducers and instrumentation.

Our two main areas of research are Applied Autonomy and Medical Devices. Applied Autonomy is really at the core of our lab’s philosophy. We have several projects which aim at adding to the field of autonomous technology. Funded by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, we are currently involved with several projects with the U.S. Marine Corps. These include:

  • Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate (GUSS)
  • LIDAR-Camera Sensor Fusion
  • Multispectral Perception to Identify Vegetation, Water, and Humans
  • Switching Mode DC-DC Converter
  • Autonomous Network Triangulation System (ANTS)

Mechatronics Classes

The Mechatronics class introduces students to the complex and rapidly evolving field of mechatronics, the study of the intersection of mechanical technologies and electronics. These technologies form the basis for robotics, autonomy, linear and nonlinear control, and automation.  The two semester sequence covers topics a wide range of subjects based around the integration of microcontrollers, sensors, and actuators in mechanical systems.  Each of the major topics of the course includes hands-on lab experiences to use the material covered. The first semester class culminates in a competition using Micromouse robots to navigate a race track with obstacles. The second semester of the course also includes an applied design project that allows the students to apply the concepts current engineering challenges.

Odin was the Mechatronics Lab entry for the DARPA Urban Challenge in 2007. Odin finished 3rd in the competition.

The Mechatronics Lab has tackled a wide range of projects, however it focuses on applied autonomy and pediatric medical devices. There are many on going projects being conducted by the 40+ graduate and undergraduate students with a range of research partners. There are two sections in our lab: Applied Autonomy and the Pediatric Medical Device Institute (PMDI).

  • Applied Autonomy


    The Applied Autonomy section focuses on the use of robotics in the real world to accomplish important or dangerous tasks that a human cannot or should not do. All aspects of autonomy and supporting systems are addressed in our lab, such as vehicle drive-by-wire conversion, localization, path planning, and perception and sensing.

  • PMDI at the Mechatronics Lab


    The Pediatric Medical Devices Institute focuses on the research and development of novel sensors and techniques for pediatrics. Partnered with the Carilion Clinic in Roanoke, VA, we work with medical professionals to identify areas of need in pediatrics that could be improved with new devices. We have investigated topics such as detecting Cerebral Palsy in infants, monitoring the breathing of infants with tracheotomy tubes, and an automatic oxygen delivery system for infants.

Laboratory address and students offices:

Department of Mechanical Engineering
311 Durham Hall
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061

Department of Mechanical Engineering
College of Engineering, Virginia Tech
635 Prices Fork Road, Blacksburg, VA 24061