The Wizard of Robots

Virginia Tech professor Dennis Hong has made an international name for himself — and Tech — by inventing humanoid robots whose abilities defy imagination.

Hong, director of Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, squares off against CHARLI-2 on the field. Designing a robot that can find and kick a soccer ball is believed to be the ultimate challenge in robot design. (Dustin Fenstermacher / FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Unlike CHARLI-2, the DARwIn-OP robot, also designed by Hong and his students, is not human-size. DARwIn stands for Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence, and OP stands for Open Platform. (Dustin Fenstermacher / FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Hong with CHARLI, left, and CHARLI-2. With $20,000 in seed money, Hong and his students built CHARLI in 2008. CHARLI-2 is lighter and stronger. (Dustin Fenstermacher / FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Hong works with students, all of whom are men, in the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, which has become a mandatory stop for those touring Virginia Tech’s campus. (Dustin Fenstermacher / FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

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