F&I 1: Newton's 2nd Law (HS), F&I 1: Newton's 3rd Law (MS), F&I 2: Newton's 1st Law (MS), F&I 2: Newton's 3rd Law (HS), Forces & Interactions, Physical Science, S&P 2: Synthetic Materials (MS), Structure & Properties of Matter

Anchoring like octopus

Anchoring like octopus

SUMMARY: In this experiment, scientists tried to reproduce an anchoring mechanism modeled after octopus suckers. There were a few important aspects they wanted to mimic: the softness of the suckers so that suction could be maintained even on rough surfaces and the ability to sense proximity and tactile stimuli. They ended up with a sucker that was made out of two types of silicone, one needed to be stickier and softer, the other more stiff (see Figure 2 with cross section of octopus sucker). For the proximity and tactile sensations, they used fiber optics built inside of the sucker. The graphs and results show the tests done on this artificial sucker.

LESSON COMMENTS: Modeling technology after biological organisms is not uncommon (sonar, for one). This is a great article to introduce students to for any project-based learning curriculum. What other organisms can students model their product after and why? Teachers should read through the methodology and take a look at the graphs in the results. There is quite a lot of technical jargon, but the visual aids are very helpful in trying to understand both the setup and the tests. For middle school students, Figure 2 is a good reference to use to show how one must first understand how a biological system (in this case, the sucker) works, before attempting to model anything after it.

Sareh, S., Althoefer, K., Li, M., Noh, Y., Tramacere, F., Sareh, P., … Kovac, M. (2017). Anchoring like octopus: biologically inspired soft artificial sucker. Journal of the Royal Society, Interface, 14(135), 20170395. doi:10.1098/rsif.2017.0395