Researcher Daniel Goldman from CRAB Lab (Complex Rheology and Biomechanics) at Georgia Tech studied how baby sea turtles were able to move so quickly along the beach straight out of their sandy nests after hatching in their trek towards the safety of the distant water. To test his hypotheses without having to bring baby turtles into the lab, one of his students built FlipperBot to mimic the movements.
This isn’t just a feel-good waste of research dollars. The data can be used to help advance robotic technology by solving locomotion problems across multiple terrains. The baby sea turtles are of particular interest because they are able to maintain high speeds whether they are on solid ground or shifting sand. The research concluded that it was “all in the wrists” which they would bend when traversing sand but keep rigid on solid ground.
FlipperBot confirmed this in the labs using their wooden flippers in different positions depending on the surface of travel. Here’s the bot in action: