What can jump as high as the eyes of the Statue of Liberty? Well, the jumping robot can! The robot was designed by Elliot Hawkes, a mechanical engineer from University of California, Santa Barbara. With the ability to jump three times higher than any other jumping robot, it can also out-jump any living animal.
Hawkes has been working on the robot for seven years. “It started out as a stick with weights and rubber bands,” he said. Nobody would’ve called it a robot at the start of its creation because it didn’t have anything electronic or any motors on it, he recalls. This got him and his colleagues determined to find out, “Just how high can it go?” After many years of work, the robot reached heights as high as 100 feet. Hawkes and his team recorded this on the website Nature on April 23, 2022.
Various researchers studied how different types of animals jump. Hawkes didn’t want to copy any of the animals so instead, his team learned the types of features of certain animal jumpers and how to find ways around it. Muscles in the body of many animals including humans provide energy for jumping. These muscles pull on stretchy hamstrings that react just like a spring, launching the body high into the air. A muscle can only tense up and release once per jump. Weight is also a factor due to large muscles making the animal or human heavier. Typically, the heavier the animal, the harder it is to move against the force of gravity.
Through a process called work multiplication, engineers can control the robot's jump. A small motor and a large spring are needed to extend the spring and send the robot jumper to high altitudes with a high amount of speed. The spring is necessary due to the fact that one stroke of the motor does not provide sufficient power. However, as more strokes occur, more power is stored in the spring. This collected energy over multiple strokes makes it possible for the robot to jump higher. Hawkes and his team used this method to develop the robots jump and achieve its maximum height.
This new robot has legs that bend in a hoop-like shape. As these legs bend, the rubber bands that are connected to them stretch out. When the robot is ready to take flight, it squats into a round shape. After release, the legs and rubber bands all snap back into a narrow-looking shape. In nine thousandths of a second, it can go up to almost 60 miles an hour – an acceleration that is exceeds what the human body can even handle.
A roboticist at the University of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania commented that “They don’t have any steering at all.” Due to this factor, it can’t sway its direction or peak. The team is working to add steering and has hopes to send the robot to the moon to retrieve samples. “This type of robot could leap into the bottom of a crater, take samples and return to a wheeled rover,” Hawkes says. This new robot has a lot of potential for the future and has already done some amazing things. Though it still needs improvements, Hawkes' team is working with NASA and plans on making it a space explorer for the future.
[Source: ScienceNewsExplores, Elliot Hawkes' Lab]