That’s a wrap

This exercise is a part of Educator Guide: Origami Outfits Help Bots Retool / View Guide

Based on the article Origami outfits help bots retool:”

1. In one sentence, what is the main idea of the article?

Possible student response: The same robot can wear different outfits, or shape-shifting exoskeletons, that allow it to perform different tasks.

2. What is described as the “heart” of the robot? How is this part of the robot controlled?

Possible student response: A magnetic metal cube a few millimeters across is the robot’s heart, or control center. Researchers remotely control the small cube with magnetic coils called solenoids that attract and/or repel the magnetic cube.

3. How is the origami sheet made?

Possible student response: The sheet is a flat layer of heat-shrinking polymer (the same kind used to make Shrinky Dinks) that is covered on both sides with a layer of polyester. The polyester protects the heat-shrink layer by absorbing some of the heat from external sources. Wherever the researchers want the origami sheet to fold along a line as heat is applied to the exoskeleton, they peel away a thin strip of the polyester insulation.

4. How is the origami sheet converted into an exoskeleton for the robot?

Possible student response: Using the solenoids, the researchers position the metal cube on top of one of the origami sheets where the cube fastens to the sheet. A heating pad under the sheet is activated once the cube is in place and heats the origami sheet to 65° Celsius. The uninsulated regions, or creases, of the sheet start to shrink before the insulated regions do, causing the sheet to fold on the designated lines. The sheet surrounds the metal cube as it folds up into a three-dimensional shape.

5. How is each exoskeleton fastened in place and removed when desired?

Possible student response: Each exoskeleton is fastened into place with four latches made of water-soluble material. To remove the exoskeleton, researchers use the solenoids to guide the robot into water, which dissolves the latches. Then the researchers use the solenoids to move the metal cube away from the remains of the exoskeleton.

6. What functions do the different exoskeletons perform?

Possible student response: When guided by the solenoids, the Walk-bot exoskeleton allows the cube to walk. The Wheel-bot exoskeleton allows the cube roll. The Boat-bot exoskeleton allows the cube to float on water. The Glider-bot exoskeleton has wings that carry the cube through the air.

7. What are some possible applications for such rapidly customizable robots? What tools could future exoskeletons provide for a robot?

Possible student response: Potential applications of these robots include surgery, space manufacturing and emergency response missions. Drills, scissors, shovels and grippers could all be included in future exoskeletons.

8. How could similar adaptable robots be useful for surgery? What about for space missions and for emergency responses?

Possible student response: For surgery, a patient could ingest a magnetic core and various exoskeletons, which a surgeon would then remotely control from outside the body. During space manufacturing, a single robot could perform a wide range of tasks that would normally require multiple robots or a lot of spare parts, which would reduce the weight of materials brought to space. In an emergency response operation, a robot could don different lightweight exoskeletons to perform different tasks while helping to find and rescue victims, again, without having to pack a lot of spare parts or completely different types of robots.

9. What general scientific principles were applied by the scientists when designing and constructing the robot?

Possible student response: In order to design and construct the robot, scientists used the concepts of electricity, magnetism, dynamics of movements, the structure and properties of materials (including solubility and the interactions of materials), heat transfer and thermodynamics, as well as mathematical principles of geometry.