What’s on : Lectures

What can an engineer learn from biology?

28 Feb 2017
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Prof Jon Timmis
2017 02 28 What can an engineer learn 2

Event Information

by Prof Jon Timmis, Department of Electronics, University of York

It might seem strange to think that biology has a lot to teach people who design the next generation of robotic systems.  This talk will explore the exciting interaction between biology and engineering, and discuss how ants can be inspiration for the design of “swarm” robotic systems, how the protection afforded by the immune system can be used to inspire the creation of self-healing robots and how the evolutionary process can be used to potentially inspire the design of self-sustaining, robotic systems.

Part of a mini-series of lectures on Engineering in the 2017 lecture programme

Member’s report

Professor Timmis used a small robot and video clips to demonstrate robots that can walk, run and climb stairs; swarms of robots that can mimic the emergent behaviour of large populations of organisms; micro robots that with further miniaturisation could find and treat wounds; swarms of robots that can fly in formation, robots that can work collaboratively; and robots that can repair themselves.

These illustrated a multidisciplinary approach, underpinned by mathematical modelling and electronics, used to solve many engineering and medical problems by analysing biological systems – such as individual organisms, flocks of birds, shoals of fish, and immune systems. Initially, simple rules are deduced, that nature follows to solve specific problems. The assumed rules are modelled mathematically, refined to mimic natural behaviour more closely and to confirm that the analysis is realistic, and then used to programme a robot or robot swarm to solve analogous engineering problems. The refining process can even mimic the evolutionary process mathematically, to establish a fast heuristic solution.

Rod Leonard