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How to Build a Robotic Eel


NGSS Standards:



K-ESS3-3, 1-LS1-1

Crosscutting Concepts:

Cause and Effect, Structure and Function

Transcript-How to Build a Robotic Eel
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What's a robotic eel doing in this lake?! Oh, just testing for water pollution...

Photo of Envirobot

Envirobot is one of the first robots of its kind: Swimming robots. Or more technically, bio-inspired marine robots.

That means that the design of the robot has been inspired by a real animal, who has perfected its movement over millions of years of evolution. "Why reinvent the wheel?" say bio-inspired roboticists. Animals provide excellent models for robots.

The eel, or lamprey, which has the same movement as an eel, inspired Envirobot. Here's a video of Bezhad Bayat and other scientists on the team explaining how it works:

Envirobot is the fourth generation, or version, of a robotic eel. It started as a robot called Amphibot. Here, Amphibot III is tested out in a swimming race against a human ("The First Human Robot Swimming Race!" It's like the Turing Test for swimmers).

Here's Amphibot II. You can see how the robot evolved each time!

Want to learn more? Watch this interview featuring Amphibot and other animal-inspired robots from Envirobot's makers!

Can't get enough? Here's more bio-inspired robotic inspiration from Harvard University:

So if you were going to design a robot from an animal, which animal would you choose, and why?

What would it do?

We want to hear (and see!) your ideas! Send them to us at

***By the way, here's what a lamprey looks like in real life!

Lamprey in water

(Don't worry. There's no way it can get into your house at night.)

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