When John Morrell left his post at Yale University last year and decamped to Apple, some members of the robotics community were perplexed.
Morrell, a robotics whiz and one of the leading engineers behind the Segway, had been tapped as director for Yale’s newly opening Center for Engineering Innovation & Design. This center marked a play by Yale to reinvigorate its engineering and applied sciences efforts. (You may not have noticed, but Yale grads haven’t exactly been killing it in the technology scene.) Morrell had been overseeing research around how robots climb stairs and open doors, and how humans generally interact with machines. And then—poof—the superstar director bailed on the project.