Magazine article ASEE Prism

Technological Leap

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Technological Leap

Article excerpt

BIOMIMICRY

Nature is filled with interesting oddities, and many of them inspire roboticists. Take, for example, water striders, the bugs that not only skim along the surface of water but can also propel themselves into the air as if they were taking off from solid ground. Engineering researchers from Seoul National University and Harvard have now created a tiny, lightweight robot that can mimic water striders. The researchers had to first understand how the striders managed the feat. They pored over videos to analyze the insect's mechanics. And each time they reached a hypothesis, they tested it using a robotic prototype. They learned that water striders' legs are slightly curved at the tips and use a rotational movement to assist their launch from the water's surface. They also learned that the bug maintains leg contact on water for as long as possible during the jump maneuver; it pushes down on the water but with a force that's just above the threshold that would break the surface. …

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