Manta_Ray_-_Under.jpgThe journal Science reports on a friendly manta ray robot competition between Princeton and the University of Virginia. Mantas are super efficient swimmers and thus ideal models for autonomous underwater vehicles.

“They are such self-possessed, graceful animals,” Princeton’s Alexander Smits, an expert in fluid mechanics, tells Science. Smits began to focus on manta rays after a trip to Australia about a decade ago, when he had an “almost mystical” experience swimming among the manta rays.

Science reports that Smits persuaded former Princeton postdoc Hilary Bart-Smith, now an associate professor at UVa, to develop shape-morphing manta-like fins for underwater locomotion. Bart-Smith, Smits and four other researchers ultimately won a $6.5 million five-year grant to collaborate on building bio-inspired sea vehicles.

This year’s manta robot competition between the two collaborating universities took place at the Carderock Division of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center. Princeton’s entry was designed by Mohammad Javed, who just graduated from Princeton with a degree in mechanical engineering.

How did Javed’s manta robot fare? You will have to read the Science article to find out.

Image courtesy Agsftw via Wikimedia Commons