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WSRE Public Square Speakers Series Presents James McLurkin

Last Updated by Mary Riker on

McLurkin uses his "Nerd Pride" to excite the next generation of engineers and scientists

PENSACOLA, Fla., January 22, 2016—James McLurkin, a leader in the field of robotics, will speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25 in the WSRE Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio as part of the PBS station’s Public Square Speakers Series.
As a child, McLurkin was constantly building with LEGO bricks, cardboard boxes or any other materials he could find. He continues this tradition in his work today. Using nature as a model, his core research is developing distributed algorithms for multi-robot systems: the software for large swarms of autonomous robots.
SwarmBots were originally created during his five-year post as lead research scientist at iRobot, one of the world's leading robotics companies. Inspired by the behavior of ants and bees, SwarmBots perform individual tasks that collectively contribute to the goals of a group.
In his upcoming presentation, “Dances with Robots: The Story of One Engineer, 112 Little Robots, and the Toys, Insects, and Star Wars Movies that Made it all Possible,” McLurkin will take the audience from a lighthearted look at society’s views on robots to philosophical questions about the nature of intelligence that poses problems for the creation of artificially intelligent devices. His talk will address the need for swarms of robots and the technology required to produce their group behaviors using live robot demonstrations and video clips to punctuate his message.
Since 1995, McLurkin has lectured extensively at companies and universities such as the Smithsonian Museum, Harvard University, Infosys, IBM and Honda. He is dedicated to illustrating the fun and excitement in science and engineering and teaches classes to students of all ages, from elementary school to graduate school.

In 2003, McLurkin received the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, which is awarded to burgeoning MIT student inventors. Also in 2003, he was recognized by Time Magazine as one of five leading robotics engineers in their “Rise of the Machines” feature and by Black Enterprise magazine as a “Best and Brightest Under 40.” In 2002, he was featured in the Lemelson Center's nationwide interactive traveling exhibit, Invention at Play, which began at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
In the wake of these honors, he was featured in a 2005 NOVA Science NOW feature on PBS.
Today, he is an assistant professor at Rice University in the Department of Computer Science. He holds an S.B. in electrical engineering with a minor in mechanical engineering from MIT, an M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and an S.M. and Ph.D. in computer science from MIT.

The Public Square Speakers Series is an educational outreach program of WSRE, PBS for the Gulf Coast. Admission is free. Reservations are encouraged and can be made online at

Media Relations Contact:
Mary Riker