A Harvard University-led, multidisciplinary team of computer scientists, engineers, and biologists have received a $10 million U.S. National Science Foundation Expeditions in Computing grant to develop small-scale robotic devices based on the biology of a bee and the insect's hive behavior.
The researchers hope to advance the field of miniature robotics and the design of compact, high-energy power sources, as well as create new ultra-low-power computing and smart electronic sensors, and improve coordination algorithms to manage multiple, independent machines.
"Nature has bred astonishing solutions to complex real-world challenges," says Harvard professor Robert Wood, the principal investigator of the project. "This research aims to understand the biology of bees and use this understanding to advance multiple topics in computer science and engineering."
Wood and his colleagues say that nature-inspired research could lead to the development of novel methods for designing and building an electronic surrogate nervous system capable of sensing and adapting to changing environments, and advance the field of small-scale flying mechanical devices.
The five-year project could lead to technological advances in robust, bio-inspired computer systems that coordinate complex behavior using input from multiple independent parts, smart materials, and novel, miniature power sources that could be used in a variety of devices. The researchers also will work with the Museum of Science in Boston to create an interactive exhibit to educate and inspire future scientists and engineers.
From Harvard University
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