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Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar

Thursday, May 2, 2024
11:00am to 12:00pm
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Gates-Thomas 135
Nature in Motion: The power of bioinspired design in unraveling locomotion across mediums and scales
Aimy Wissa, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University,

Mechanical and Civil Engineering Seminar Series

Title: Nature in Motion: The power of bioinspired design in unraveling locomotion across mediums and scales

Abstract: Organisms have evolved various locomotion (self-propulsion) and shape adaptation (morphing) strategies to survive and thrive in diverse and uncertain environments. Unlike engineered systems, which rely heavily on active control, natural systems rely on reflexive and passive control. Nature often exploits distributed flexibility to simplify global actuation requirements. These approaches to locomotion and morphing rely on multifunctional and passively adaptive structures. This talk will introduce several examples of bioinspired multifunctional structures, such as feather-inspired flow control devices. Flow control devices on birds' wings will be introduced as a pathway toward revolutionizing small air vehicles' current design and flight control. Wind tunnel and flight-testing results show the aerodynamic benefits of these devices in delaying stall and improving flight performance. In addition to bioinspired engineering, I will highlight how engineering analysis and experiments can help answer critical questions related to elasticity in biological systems, such as the flying fish aerial-aquatic transition and click beetles' legless jumping. These research topics represent examples of how nature can inform robotic engineering design and highlight that engineering analysis can provide insights into the locomotion and adaptation strategies nature employs.

Bio: Prof. Aimy Wissa joined the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at Princeton University as an Assistant Professor in January 2022. She is the director of the Bio-inspired Adaptive Morphology (BAM) Lab. Wissa was a post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University, and she earned her doctoral degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Maryland in 2014. Wissa's work focuses on the modeling and experimental evaluation of dynamic and adaptive bioinspired structures and systems, such as avian-inspired and insect-inspired wings and robotic systems with multiple modes of locomotion. Wissa is a McNair Scholar. She has received numerous awards, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research Young Investigator and NSF's CAREER awards.

NOTE: At this time, in-person Mechanical and Civil Engineering Lectures are open to all Caltech students/staff/faculty/visitors.

For more information, please contact Kristen Bazua by phone at (626) 395-3385 or by email at [email protected] or visit