Travel grant for Bolmin accelerates work on click beetle-inspired robots


Amanda Maher

Bolmin, third from left, and Wissa, third from right, with the BAM Lab group.
Bolmin, third from left, and Wissa, third from right, with the BAM Lab group.
Ophelia Bolmin, a PhD student in MechSE, was recently awarded a Dissertation Travel Grant from the Graduate College at Illinois.

Travel grants subsidize travel for research or creative projects required for the completion of a graduate degree, and recipients are selected by the University’s Fellowship Board. Bolmin was one of three College of Engineering students to win the grant, along with about a dozen other recipients from diverse majors including biology, architecture, history, and communications.

With the funding, Bolmin traveled to Atlanta, then spent four days at Argonne National Laboratory, outside Chicago. In Atlanta, she worked with 3D printing of composite materials and complex structures, ultimately building a 3D printer with the company Hyrel 3D. Bolmin said she learned how to fine-tune hot flow and cold flow used in fused deposition modeling printers. She plans to apply her knowledge to develop tools for the Bio-inspired Adaptive Morphology (BAM) Lab, where she works with her advisor, Assistant Professor Aimy Wissa.

While at Argonne, Bolmin collected high-speed X-ray images of the hinge mechanism of the click beetle. Bolmin’s main project is creating a self-righting mechanism for autonomous robots inspired by click beetles, which are able to jump without using their legs, unlike most animals and insects. The beetle is segmented by a hinge, which allows it to invert and then flex into a near vertical jump, using it as a way to reposition after becoming inverted. She plans to connect the findings from her work in Atlanta with her work at Argonne to develop new manufacturing techniques and to fine-tune composites to create a material similar to the exoskeleton of the click beetle, to be used in future prototypes. Wissa and Bolmin aim to integrate the beetle’s jumping technique into autonomous robots.