May 3 2013, 9:39am CDT | by Sumayah Aamir
The previous summer an experiment took place at Harvard that was to have long-lasting consequences. A very minute robotic insect was invented that hovered in the air via its minuscule wings and then made a beeline in its remote controlled flight. It was smaller than a computer key. The fascinated maker of this latest wonder of the world looked on while his technological fantasy took to the air and appeared to behave like a living being. As stated in the Harvard Gazette , he took a video shot of the all-time first-of-its-kind electronic insect behavior and labeled it “Flight of the RoboBee.”
Pakpong Chirarattananon, the proud creator of this entomological entity, spoke of how he was so excited after the experiment that he couldn’t sleep. This solo flight has more than ten years of solid research behind it. It was just recently that the various components fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle and the “first flight” occurred with a bang. The source of inspiration behind the whole deal was none other than Mother Nature. The ordinary housefly was taken as a model. By close-up mimesis of its structural-functional behavior the scientists came up with a light-weight sample. It had gauzy wings that went into action and made take-off possible.
The model exhibited the latest in micro-circuitry and leading edge technology that had mindboggling possibilities. Though the work for the RoboBee had been in incubation for more than 12 years, it was literally begun from the drawing board. With each step forward there were two steps back which had to be traversed again. Finally, the fruits of desire were within reach and the results were equal to the efforts put into the project. The size of a pupil, this robot didn’t have a flight motor since they don’t come in such small packages. The wings were made of slivers of ceramics that displayed piezoelectric properties. Furthermore, a pop-up technique was used in the internal electronic viscera of the RoboBee. The back-breaking, bone-crunching agony that went into the manufacture (or micro-facture) of such a tiny high tech device shows the resilience of scientists. The adaptability and malleability of man’s cultural base truly has no limits. And the RoboBee is living proof of that.
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