URI oceanography lecture: Learning from fish to build better underwater robots

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George V. Lauder. Photo courtesy of George V. Lauder.
George V. Lauder. Photo courtesy of George V. Lauder.

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – April 18, 2019 — George V. Lauder, a Harvard University biologist whose research focuses on the remarkable variety of ways in which fish swim, will present a lecture titled “Fish Robotics: How Fish Locomotion Will Inspire the Next Generation of Underwater Vehicles” at the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus April 26 at 3 p.m.

The event, which is the URI Graduate School of Oceanography’s annual Charles and Marie Fish Lecture, will take place in the Coastal Institute auditorium, 218 South Ferry Road, Narragansett. It is free and open to the public.

Lauder is a Henry Bryant Bigelow Professor at Harvard College and a professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University. By analyzing how fish propel themselves through the water, Lauder and his collaborators have developed several different self-propelled robotic models—from simple thin plastic panels to more complex tuna-like robots.

Working at the Greenfins Aquaculture Facility on the URI Narragansett Bay Campus, Lauder has filmed high-speed videos of tuna locomotion, which have helped with the design and programming of a small robotic tuna—the Tunabot.

At the April 26 lecture Lauder will discuss how these robots can help scientists better understand fish locomotion and how it may inform designs of a range of products, including underwater vehicles and bodysuits used by competitive swimmers.

“Fish body shapes and propulsive systems have had over 400 million years of evolutionary time to fine tune their interaction with the surrounding water,” said Lauder. “There is a tremendous amount that we can learn from fish that can inspire underwater vehicle design, and begin to move us beyond the age of propeller-driven devices to systems with flexible bodies that move with the efficiencies and maneuverability of fish.”

The Charles and Marie Fish Lecture is an annual public lecture endowed by the family of Drs. Charles and Marie Fish. The Fishes established a marine biological program at the University of Rhode Island in 1935 and eventually a graduate program in oceanography at the Narragansett Marine Laboratory, which later became URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography.

More information and free tickets are available online.