PITA Fiscal Year 2007 Projects

Product and Process Design and Optimization

STRIDE: Surface Tension Driven Biologically Inspired Miniature Water Strider Robots
Recent biological studies on water strider insects have revealed how they maintain stability and maneuver on the water surface. While macro scale bodies use buoyancy, these very small insects use surface tension force to balance their weight on water. This project proposes a biologically inspired miniature robot called STRIDE that utilizes the unique scaling advantage of these insects. This work would focus on understanding the unsteady fluid dynamics of the interaction between the insect and the water surface and on designing, fabricating and controlling a robot that mimics their key features. Although Dr. Sitti’s NanoRobotics Lab has recently showed the feasibility and preliminary prototypes of this type of robot for walking on water surface similar to the insect, the current designs have no on-board electronics, control, wireless communication, and sensor type of components and its manufacturing has been conducted manually so far. Therefore, this project specifically aims for integrating all required on-board control, sensor and communication electronics and commercial lithium polymer battery and solar cells as potential on-board power source units for teleoperated and autonomous operation of the robot. Furthermore, the unsteady fluid dynamics of the water strider robot locomotion is not fully understood, and Dr. Pekkan would conduct computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling and particle image velocimetry (PIV) experiments to show the details of the unsteady fluid dynamics of the robot on water surface which are not understood completely yet.

This project would have many potential near term commercial applications such as water quality monitoring on dams, lakes, etc. type of relatively stagnant water surfaces and as toy and educational robots. There is a great demand from science museums, public, and toy industry in PA for this type of a unique robot for entertainment but also educating kids and adults about the small scale physics and systems. Carnegie Science Museum has already committed to exhibit this robot in 9th and 10th September 2006 and would have a special day in 2007 to show this robot to public and many children in 2007. Therefore, there would be a great and unique potential of educational outreach activities of this project. As commercialization of this robot, General Dynamics Robotics Systems (GDRS) would be the industrial participant in this project. For such near term commercialization of this robot, massive and repeatable manufacturing of the robot is critical, and GDRS would especially contribute in this manufacturing and commercialization aspect of the robot.