Researchers at Notre Dame University are making waves with a project that could save the lives of sea turtle hatchlings. These vulnerable creatures face numerous challenges on their perilous journey from nest to ocean, including predators and plastic pollution. However, a team of engineers is working on a solution – a robotic sea turtle that could lead hatchlings to safety. The robo-turtle has been built using 3D printed components, as you can see below.
Inspired by the sea turtle’s unique locomotive adaptability, the researchers have developed a robotic replica that mimics the real creature’s unique gait and propulsion, utilizing its front flippers for forward motion and smaller hind flippers for directional changes. The team, led by Yasemin Ozkan-Aydin, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, is subjecting their creation to rigorous testing across various terrains on Notre Dame’s campus.
The robot’s design draws from comprehensive zoological studies, combining the most effective elements from different sea turtle species. Its key components include an oval-shaped body, four independently controlled flippers, an electronic onboard control unit, multi-sensor device, and a flexible yet sturdy silicone flipper material.
Hard-life for Hatchlings
Sea turtle hatchlings face dire odds, with only one in a thousand successfully navigating the treacherous journey to adulthood. Notre Dame’s researchers hope that their robotic creation, modeled after hatchling size and structure, could aid conservation efforts. The ultimate goal is to employ these robot helpers to guide real hatchlings safely to the ocean, reducing the risks they encounter during this crucial phase.
Ozkan-Aydin emphasizes the importance of understanding sea turtles’ adaptability to varied terrains, suggesting that insights gained from studying these creatures could lead to the development of more versatile robots in the future.
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