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NSF Emerging Frontiers' program supports development of smart materials based on study of fish
Date:8/19/2009

, and James Tangorra, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics at Drexel, round out the team.

Working together, the team will develop distributed sensors and actuators using nanotechnology, advanced composite technology, and smart polymeric materials for understanding the organization and structure of the control systems fish use for sensing and maneuvering.

With the inclusion of Harvard University, the research team also plans to develop a traveling exhibit on robotic fish that showcases the biology of aquatic propulsion, new actuator and sensing technologies and how these can be integrated to design a robotic fish. Harvard's Museum of Natural History (http://www.hmnh.harvard.edu/ with its links to "Kids and Families" and "Educators" receive some 33,000 school-aged visitors each year. They will have access to the robotic fish exhibit on line through this site.

Lisa McNair of Virginia Tech's Engineering Education Department, an expert on applying theories of interdisciplinary collaboration in research and teaching practices, will work with the Harvard Museum to assess the impact on the students' understanding of the biological mechanisms that allow fish to sense, swim and maneuver efficiently with minimal processing.

Philen explained that over the past 20 years experts such as George Lauder from Harvard have investigated a number of aspects of fish control systems for movement. These studies have shown that fish possess a two-gear muscular system that controls movement. One is for slow-speed movement and the other is for rapid movements and escape responses.

"Despite this progress, there is still very little understanding of the structure and organization of the hierarchical control systems in fish or how the actuation and sensing systems are integrated to perform steady and maneuvering locomotor tasks," Philen said. "Researchers have explored vari
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Contact: Lynn Nystrom
tansy@vt.edu
540-231-4371
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert  

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