Robot lizards research wins 3MT competition - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Robot lizards research wins 3MT competition

13 Oct 2021

A PhD student developing bio-inspired robot lizards to better understand animal movement and apply the knowledge to the needs of industry has won the annual USC Three-Minute Thesis competition.

Johanna Schultz, 25, of Maroochydore was judged the best of six finalists in the annual competition where students must verbally present their research within 180 seconds.

The presentations were judged online and on campus.

Ms Schultz explained how her bio-inspired robotics research involved building and programming lizard-inspired robots that could climb walls, by adapting elements of animal locomotion.

“With these robots we can study why today’s lizards are so successful at climbing, but we can also recreate the unsuccessful strategies of lizards that have gone extinct,” she said.

“The knowledge about optimal gait configurations we gain from these studies could be applied to technical applications in industries such as space exploration.

“We basically take advantage of the work done by millions of years of animal evolution.”

Second place in the USC competition went to Brisbane’s Tengfei Yi of USC’s Forest Research Institute, who discussed the potential for using oxide nanoparticles to protect treated timber against discolouration from UV radiation exposure.

Third placegetter was Education researcher Sandie Elsom of Little Mountain, who is studying how alternate reality games can enhance and support students’ learning in higher education, using a USC course as a case study.

The People’s Choice winner was Amanda Boyes of Bli Bli, whose research at USC’s Thompson Institute is investigating how an under-researched part of the brain called the caudate relates to mental health in adolescents.

USC Graduate Research School Dean Professor Stephan Riek said, “The Three-Minute Thesis competition is a great opportunity for our PhD students to communicate the impact of their research. We had superb presentations from all our finalists.”

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