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Copying Snake Design

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A robot snake built at Johns Hopkins University could give a step up to search and rescue technology. Chen Li is a professor of mechanical engineering at that University in Maryland. His team combined their knowledge of engineering, physics, and biology to study movements made by snakes.

The team of engineers constructed their robot snake after studying the motions and movements of the nonvenomous Variable Kingsnake.

Copying God’s design of creatures when coming up with inventions is known as biomimicry. “Bio” refers to living things. “Mimicry” comes from “mimic,” which means to imitate or copy.

At their Terradynamics Lab, each test was filmed. That helped the team to monitor how snakes contort their bodies as they come across different barriers, like steps.

During the experiments with the Kingsnake and robot snake, engineers experimented with the height and slipperiness of the steps. Mr. Li and his team knew that earlier studies had focused on snake movements across flat surfaces. Studies have rarely examined movements of snakes over rough terrain. They didn’t examine how the creatures moved over obstacles that could be faced by a search and rescue robot.

Researchers found that the snake robot built by professor Li was speedier and more stable that most used in earlier studies.

The team plans to continue working on and improving their robot, testing it on more difficult surfaces with even larger obstacles.

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