Aaron Johnson researches how to design intelligent interactions between a robot and its environment with a focus on taking robots out of the lab and factory and into the real world. His interests include novel robot design, behavior design, controller design, platform design, as well as dynamic transitions, contact, physics-based planning, bio-inspired robotics, robot vision, actuator modeling, and robot ethics. He has tested his robots in the Mojave desert, power plants, a coal mine, and on various military bases.

Johnson received his B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon (2008). He received his Ph.D. in electrical and systems engineering at the University of Pennsylvania (2014), and was a postdoctoral fellow in the Personal Robotics Lab, the Robotics Institute, at CMU. He was formerly a visiting researcher with Boston Dynamics, an electrical engineering Intern at iRobot, and a research assistant with the Biorobotics Lab (Snake Robot Lab) at CMU.

Johnson’s work has been featured in many news stories, including interviews with the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal, and in articles on technology news sites, including IEEE Spectrum, Gizmodo, Wired, and Engadget. He received an NSF CAREER Award in 2020 and a Young Investigator Award from the Army Research Office in 2019. He was a Best Student Paper Finalist at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in 2013, and at the Climbing and Walking Robots Conference in 2012. He received the David Thuma Laboratory Project Award in 2008 from CMU and an honorable mention for the Computing Research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Award in 2008.

B08 Scaife Hall
Google Scholar
Aaron Johnson
Aaron Johnson’s website
Robomechanics Lab website

The Simplest Walking Robot

Robots That Can Go Anywhere in the World

24-775 Robot Design and Experimentation: Student Projects


2014 Ph.D., Electrical & Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania

2008 BS, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Media mentions

CMU Engineering

Big picture, small robot

A team of mechanical engineering researchers create “Mugatu,” the first steerable bipedal robot with only one motor.

CMU Engineering

Tricky tangles: Robots learn to navigate vine-like vegetation

CMU researchers develop technology that enables four-legged robots to walk through vine-like vegetation.

Carnegie Bosch Institute

Meet CBI Faculty Host: Aaron Johnson

In the Robomechanics Lab, Aaron Johnson and his team work on how to get robots to adapt and operate in challenging, real-world environments. This research thrust has direct applications in areas like environmental monitoring and agriculture, which are at the center of CBI Fellow Vivek Thangavelu’s project.

CMU Engineering

Gwen’s Girls partnership fosters children’s interest in robomechanics

A student-driven partnership between Aaron Johnson’s RoboMechanics lab and Gwen’s Girls has introduced nearly 100 grade school girls to engineering design and robotics.

CMU Engineering

Big steps for mini robots

Aaron Johnson’s Robomechanics Lab tested spherical foot designs to find the best fit so their biped robot with 15-cm legs could walk steadily.


Johnson quoted in Reuters

MechE’s Aaron Johnson talked about the challenges of autonomous robotics in an article on Tesla’s new Optimus robot. Johnson explains why handling soft, unpredictable material is harder for a robot than for a human.

CMU Engineering

Dean’s Early Career Fellows announced

Five College of Engineering faculty members have been awarded the Dean’s Early Career Fellowship in recognition of their exemplary contributions to their respective fields.

CMU Engineering

Open-source software gives a leg up to robot research

Aaron Johnson’s Robomechanics Lab has developed an open-source software that enables more agile movement in legged robots.

IEEE Spectrum

Yim and Johnson quoted on small robotics

MechE’s Aaron Johnson and Justin Yim were quoted in an IEEE Spectrum article highlighting their work in small humanoid robots. 

ASME Dynamic Systems & Control Division Podcast Series

Johnson interviewed on robotics

MechE’s Aaron Johnson was interviewed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Dynamic Systems & Control Division Podcast Series about his work on legged robots.

2021 Engineering faculty award winners selected

Congratulations to the 2021 CMU Engineering Faculty Awards winners.

IEEE Spectrum

Johnson’s research on aerodynamic robotic tails featured

MechE’s Aaron Johnson's robotics research on the aerodynamics of cheetah tails was featured in IEEE Spectrum.