Robotic eyes can only see so much—some sensors don't operate well in low light, and sonor systems can be confused by polished surfaces. But thanks to a mechanical engineering student, robots that are sent into dangerous locations may soon be able to scurry in the dark like roaches. Owen Y. Loh of Johns Hopkins University has built a man-made antenna that is made of cast urethane and six strain gage sensors that change resistance as they are bent. Like a cockroach's appendage, the antenna sends signals to the robot's controller, enabling it to sense its position relative to the obstacles and maneuver around them. To view a short video about the cockroach-inspired research, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/4390-532.
The amount of plastic clogging the ocean continues to grow. Some startling, not-so-good news has come out recently about the roles plastic is playing in the ocean, as well as more heartening news about efforts to collect and reuse it.
Some of our culture's most enduring robots appeared in the 80s. The Aliens series produced another evil android, and we saw light robot fare in the form of Short Circuit. Two of the great robots of all time also showed up: The Terminator and RoboCop.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.