Can we make robots as difficult to catch as flies? | Mihir Garimella

My name is Mihir I’m 15 years old and I’m a sophomore at
Fox Chapel Area high school in Pittsburgh. I started visiting the Carnegie Science
Center from an early age it’s full a fun and interactive exhibits,
which helped spark my interest in science and develop a love for robotics. Last summer my family and I went to India on
vacation. We returned to find a house filled with fruit flies as we had left some bananas on the kitchen
counter. After many failed attempts trying to swat them I started to realize how amazing the escape is. I’d been reading about flying robots at
the time and one thing that struck me was the
similarities in the environment in which both fruit flies and flying robots have to operate. I
wanted to see whether we could drop from biology to make flying robots truly autonomous,
so they could potentially be used in robot-assisted rescue missions an environment like a last buildings. So
the hard work began. I designed a light weight sensor module to estimate the position and orientation
of an approaching threat, drawing inspiration from the fruit flies
rudimentary but fast visual system. I spent the first six
months experimenting with different sensors and circuitry building and testing prototypes, and
coding to tie everything together. During the last stage in my research, I spent
most my time creating algorithms. I wanted to apply my learnings from
fruit fly escape behaviors to a multi rotor helicopter. I used a
sheet of plywood to simulate an approaching threat while testing
different algorithms and I was really excited when my robot
managed to escape, with a success rate of 100% across 20 attempts. Finally I compared
still imagery from my robot’s escape to high-speed images of fruit flies and
found that despite my multi-rotor helicopter having limited knowledge of the threat
and little processing power, its behavior was really similar to what I was trying
to mimic. I’m really optimistic about the world
tomorrow. I want to save lives with flying robots
and use computer science and robotics to make a difference. This
is a world that I’d like to be a part of but more importantly one that I like to help create.

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