Industrial Engineering

The Cockroach That Saved Your Life

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ISE Magazine – Volume 48: Number 05

Research into cockroaches could one day rescue you from rubble after a tornado, earthquake or explosion. According to scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, cockroaches can run at high speed even when flattened in half which inspired a palm-sized robot that can splay its legs outward when squashed. CRAM (compressible robot with articulated mechanisms) can squeeze into and run through crevices half its height. After a natural disaster, emergency responders need to know if an area of rubble is stable and safe, but most robots can’t get into rubble.

But if there are lots of cracks and vents and conduits, you can imagine just throwing a swarm of these robots in to locate survivors and safe entry points for first responders. The prototype shows the feasibility of the idea. Besides, because insects are the most successful animals on earth and intrude everywhere, humans should look to them for inspiration on making robots that can do the same.