Professor Martin Levesley

Professor Martin Levesley is professor of Dynamics and Control in the School of Mechanical Engineering and has been involved in the launch of the new National Facility for Innovative Robotic Systems which has attracted over £3m of government and industry funding.

“How I came to work in robotics was a chance encounter; someone from Medicine wanted to talk to me about using robotics in their area. I didn’t know much about robotics or anything about physiotherapy, but you soon realise that how people move their arms, in what looks like weird and wonderful ways can be translated into engineering principles and used in robotics. 

It‘s genuinely multi-disciplinary; bringing together engineering, computing, psychology and medicine. Our students get involved in all sorts of projects, for example, we’ve built a robot to support the rehabilitation of people who’ve suffered strokes. My students were tasked with producing a grip to connect the robot to the patient’s hand – the robot can then mimic the work of a physiotherapist but in the patient’s home. The students went to talk to stroke survivors to find out how they had been physically affected and to see how they could design something to help recovery. At first the students were apprehensive but soon realised that people are appreciative of student engineers doing something to help them. So it’s been a really positive, confidence builder for the students.

We like to help with the transition to university learning – to change the mind-set of students coming onto the course, from it being all about text books and solving equations to understanding and solving real world problems from the outset. Students are challenged to take learning from the lab and lecture theatre and produce something practical, like building a robot or a vehicle, and then show it works. They progress from a elastic-band powered vehicles to building race cars that compete at Silverstone. Seeing their passion; that emotional attachment you just don’t get when you’re only solving equations. It’s immensely satisfying to see my tutees going on to work for Formula 1.

Having all these bright people around me – really engaged students and academics – makes me appreciate how lucky I am: I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world.”

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