Published: April 19, 2012

More bounce to the ounce: Mini-robot attracts attention

Contact(s): Mark Fellows Media Communications office: (517) 884-0166 Mark.Fellows@cabs.msu.edu

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A steerable, jumping mini-robot developed by Michigan State University researchers is generating interest among robotics engineers, who don’t let its small size obscure its potential.

The tiny device, exhibited at MSU’s April 11 Innovation Celebration, uses a pager motor to hop several feet in the air like a locust, then right itself after landing for another jump. Power comes from a small photo cell.

The intent is to apply microfabrication technology to make it even smaller, said University Distinguished Professor Ning Xi of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who directs the department’s Robotics and Automation Laboratory. Graduate student Jianguo Zhao helped develop the robot under Xi’s supervision.

Such tiny, mobile devices – think swarms -- could be fitted with micro-sensors or communications networking equipment and deployed across rugged war zones or disaster areas that are unsuitable for wheeled robots, Xi explained. The next challenge is to give it water-hopping capability, he said.

Originally developed with funding from the National Science Foundation and then developed under commercial contract, Xi hopes to license the technology to government or commercial organizations. A news report and video can be viewed here.

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