If any of you remember in April when I featured the fastest locomotion by caterpillar (15" per second), then you would recall this impressive ballistic roll performed by "mother-of-pearl moth" larvae. BBC had a nice little video introduction about it. I posted the YouTube link on my blog under "Interesting Links". In any case, here is that link if you want to refresh your impression on what caterpillars can do.
Well, this August when I came back from the UK, I was compelled to consider replicating this biological feat with my robot. It was the week right after I developed a gait for my caterpillar robot to crawl through a 1cm hole all by itself. The Tufts robotic team was concerned with meeting the DARPA speed metric. Crawling gaits are robust, but rather slow in general. To defended my love of biological inspirations, I introduced this more dramatic locomotor mode. A few days later I had lunch with two of my best colleagues again at WholeFood, it came across our minds that it might not be too crazy to replicate what the rolling caterpillar has done. So the idea of "GoQBot" came into being, but it took us another month of hard work to translate what's on a napkin blueprints to a physical entity (yes, the original ideas were outlined on two WholeFood napkins).
Why is it called "GoQBot"? That's another interesting story. My buddy Tim is really good at drawing comics around engineering schematics. He was also one of the two colleagues in that brainstorming lunch break, the other being Dr. Gary Leisk. Tim envisioned this robot being so quick that it will go on and on as it rolls. So he drew a robot rider who shouted "GoGoGo". Gary later interpreted that into Go to the cubic power like "G^3". I thought the name could be a little more sexy and turned it into "Go-Q". The letter "Q" pictorially resembles the configuration when the caterpillar rolls into shape, and phonetically retained the cubic power of Go. Interestingly, the first generation of GoQ-Bot literally rolled three rotations (Go^3) in the Q configuration. See the brief introduction below!
"GoQBot-I" retains the same body plan from the InchBot series (InchBot IV~VII) which could performed three kinds of inching gaits, two variations of crawling gaits and a spacial climbing gait. This time, the robot has two additional flexible tail appendages that provided stability and guided curling trajectory. How does it perform a ballistic roll? See the following snapshots for yourself! It's quite obvious why it has to "Go-Q"I apologize for the bad contrast on my robot. I simply forgot to mix in rubber dye and sparkles! Next GoQBot will definitely dress up in a flamboyant color with pink sparkles (maybe some fluorescent markers for kinematics analysis as well). It might be Go-Cute Bot instead!