The Northeast Robotics Colloquium (NERC) brings together the roboticists in the northeastern United States and Canada, in an event that is simultaneously a research meeting, a networking event, a job-fair, and a showcase for established and up-and-coming robot companies. We hope to promote the kind of healthy and well-connected robotics community that will be essential in fueling the field’s rapid growth in the coming decade!

The University of Pennsylvania GRASP Lab is excited to host NERC 2019 in Philadelphia, PA. The colloquium will feature invited research talks by leading local academics, robotics industry booths, a poster/demo session, recruitment opportunities, and the opportunity to meet and mix with other roboticists. This is a great opportunity for you to publicize your ongoing work, as well as get feedback.

Interested in presenting your work or searching for a job? Submit an abstract or resume!
See full details in our Call for Participation.

Keep an eye on this website for updates! You can also subscribe to the nerc-anno mailing list to receive these announcements in your email.


8:00amRegistration, setup for demos and posters
9:00amOpening remarks
Invisible Robots, Wendy Ju, Cornell Tech
9:55amSubmitted abstract: Information theoretic active exploration in signed distance fields, Kelsey Saulnier, Nikolay Atanasov, George Pappas & Vijay Kumar (Penn)
10:15amCoffee break / Interactive session
All Hands on Deck: New Designs, Sensors, and Models for Robot Hands, Matei Ciocarlie, Columbia
11:55amSubmitted abstract: Interleaving planning and control for deformable object manipulation, Dale McConachie & Dmitry Berenson (UMich)
1:15pmSubmitted abstract: Advantages of motoneuron driven approach in robotic rehabilitation, Michael Chan et al. (Delsys Inc and Altec Inc)
Making Robots Useful in the Real World through Machine Learning, Vikas Sindhwani, Google Brain
2:15pmSubmitted abstract: Task-driven estimation and control via information bottlenecks, Vincent Pacelli & Anirudha Majumdar (Princeton)
2:35pmCoffee break / Interactive session
Extreme Motions in Biological and Engineered Systems, Zeynep Temel, CMU
4:20pmSubmitted abstract: Learning your way without map or compass: panaromic target driven visual navigation, David Watkins-Valls, Jingxi Xu, Nicholas Waytowich, & Peter Allen (Columbia)
4:40pmSubmitted abstract: A certifiably optimal solution for robust registration with extreme outlier rates, Hank Yang & Luca Carlone (MIT)

Invited Speakers

We’re excited to have the following guests as invited speakers. In addition, we plan to invite approximately four additional presentations drawn from the submitted abstracts (see our Call for Participation below).

Matei Ciocarlie is an Associate Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Columbia University, with affiliated appointments in Computer Science and the Data Science Institute. His main interest is in robotics, looking to discover how artificial mechanisms can interact with the world as skillfully as biological organisms. Matei’s current work focuses on robot motor control, mechanism and sensor design, planning and learning, all aiming to demonstrate complex motor skills such as dexterous manipulation. Matei completed his Ph.D. at Columbia University in New York. Before joining the faculty at Columbia, Matei was a Research Scientist and then Group Manager at Willow Garage, Inc., a privately funded Silicon Valley robotics research lab, and then a Senior Research Scientist at Google, Inc. In these positions, Matei contributed to the development of the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS), and led research projects in areas such as hand design, manipulation under uncertainty, and assistive robotics. In recognition of his work, Matei was awarded the Early Career Award by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, a Young Investigator Award by the Office of Naval Research, a CAREER Award by the National Science Foundation, and a Sloan Research Fellowship by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Wendy Ju is an Assistant Professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech in the Information Science program. Previously, Dr. Ju was Executive Director at the Center for Design Research at Stanford University, and an Associate Professor of Interaction Design in the Design MFA program at California College of the ARts. Her work in the areas of human-robot interaction and automated vehicle interfaces highlights the ways that interactive devices can communicate and engage people without interrupting or intruding. Dr. Ju has innovated numerous methods for early-stage prototyping of automated systems to understand how people will respond to systems before the systems are built. She has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford, and a Master’s in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT. Her monograph on The Design of Implicit Interactions was published in 2015.

Vikas Sindhwani is Research Scientist in the Google Brain team in New York where he leads a research group focused on solving a range of perception, learning and control problems arising in Robotics. His interests are broadly in core mathematical foundations of statistical learning, and in end-to-end design aspects of building large-scale, robust machine intelligence systems. He received the best paper award at Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI) 2013, the IBM Pat Goldberg Memorial Award in 2014, and was co-winner of the Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD) Cup in 2009. He serves on the editorial board of IEEE Transactions on Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, and has been area chair and senior program committee member for International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR) and Knowedge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD). He previously led a team of researchers in the Machine Learning group at IBM Research, NY. He has a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Chicago and a B.Tech in Engineering Physics from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai.

Zeynep Temel is an Assistant Professor at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, with a courtesy appointment at Mechanical Engineering Department. Zeynep’s work mainly focuses on understanding the dynamics and energetics of extreme motions in small-scale natural and synthetic systems. Small-scale biological systems achieve extraordinary accelerations, speeds, and forces that can be repeated with minimal costs throughout the life of the organism. Zeynep uses analytical and computational models as well as physical prototypes to learn about these systems, test hypotheses, and explore bio-inspired designs. She develops advanced manufacturing techniques, leverages material properties to create embedded sensors and actuators, and explores device-environment interactions with various media and contact surfaces, to investigate questions related to design, material selection, sensing, actuation, and locomotion of small-scale robotic systems. Zeynep received her B.Sc. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Istanbul Technical University (Turkey), M.Sc. degree in Mechatronics Engineering from University of Siegen (Germany), and Ph.D. degree in Mechatronics Engineering from Sabanci University (Turkey).

Call For Participation

Present your work!

Presentation abstract deadline: Sep. 25
Poster/Demo abstract deadline: Oct. 1

If you are interested in giving a presentation or poster on your work at NERC, please submit using our submission form! Topics can be anything related to robotics. We highly encourage you to bring demos of your work.

Submissions that include a 1-2 page extended abstract will be considered for short oral presentations. All accepted abstracts will be invited to present posters/demos.

Please note: if you would like to submit an extended abstract but do not have a Google account, please email your title and abstract to nerc-2019@seas.upenn.edu with the subject heading “NERC 2019 Extended Abstract” or “NERC 2019 Poster”.

Submit a Resume/CV!

Submission deadline: Oct. 8

Are you looking for a job or internship in robotics? Fill out our form, and we will send your contact and CV to our industrial sponsors.

Please note: if you would like to submit a resume but do not have a Google account, please email the file to nerc-2019@seas.upenn.edu with the subject heading “NERC 2019 Resume Submission” and a note on whether you are searching for a job or internship.

Register and Attend the Colloquium!

Early registration deadline: Oct. 8

Register for the colloquium here!

Registration costs $50. It is reduced to $10 for undergraduates, high school students, high school teachers, and family members over 12. It is free for family members under 12. On-site registration costs an additional $20. Lunch will be provided.

Poster/Presentation Instructions

Our room will have a projector with HDMI connection and podium microphone. Speakers may use their own laptops or bring their presentation on a USB flash drive. Please bring an adapter if you need a different connector type.

We will have poster boards that can accommodate 30″ x40″ poster sizes in portrait orientation. Presenters should print and bring their own posters and set them up during registration before the start of the colloquium. Mounting materials (tape or tacks) will be available at the registration desk.

Transportation and Accommodations

NERC 2019 will be held in Levine Hall at the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. The University is a 10-15 minute walk or 5 minute drive from 30th Street Station.

Public Transportation: The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) mass transit system covers UPenn and the surrounding areas. UPenn is on the Market-Frankford Line between 30th Street and 34th Street Stations.

By Rail: All Amtrak Northeast Corridor trains and SEPTA Regional trains stop at 30th Street Station.

From the Airport: The SEPTA Airport Express Train leaves from each terminal of the Philadelphia International Airport every 30 minutes between 5:00am and 12:00 midnight. You can take it to either the University City Station on Convention Avenue or to 30th Street Station. Maps and schedules can be found on the SEPTA Regional Rail website.

Local Accommodations: In case you are staying overnight, you can book through the Penn local accommodations website to use Penn negotiated rates.


NERC 2019 is co-organized this year by Cynthia Sung, Michael Posa, and Pratik Chaudhari. For questions and other administrative issues, please email nerc-2019@seas.upenn.edu.