Clever MIT modular robotics system could give astronauts WORMS

Clever MIT modular robotics system could give astronauts WORMS

No single robot can do all the tasks, but taking a bunch of different robots on Moon missions would be ineffective. The WORMS setup offers an alternative, in the form of components that can be mixed and matched to make whatever robot is needed.

Its name is an acronym for “Walking Oligomeric Robotic Mobility System,” WORMS was developed by a team of MIT engineers led by PhD candidate and graduate instructor George Lordos. He suggested the word “oligomeric,” which is a Greek term for “a few parts.”

The system was first conceived last year in response to NASA’s Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, in which university students were asked to develop robotic systems that could traverse extreme extraterrestrial terrain without using wheels.

Simply put, WORMS consists of worm-like articulated legs, different types of “shoes” that go under the legs, and different pallets that serve as the robots’ chassis. Twist-and-lock spring-loaded couplers known as Universal Interface Blocks (UCIs) are used to quickly and easily put all those bits together, in any combination desired.

In a technology demonstration, the team created a spider-inspired moon-mapping robot called WORMS-1. Its roughly diamond-shaped platform is equipped with six legs – all of which share a power source – along with a vertically protruding module in the middle with a LiDAR sensor on top. The robot was presented by engineers last week at the IEEE Aerospace Conference in Montana.

“You can imagine a shed on the moon with shelves of worms,” ​​Lordos said. “Astronauts can go to the shed, pick the worms they need, with the right shoes, bodies, sensors and tools, and they can snap everything together, then disassemble it to make new. The design is flexible, sustainable, and worthwhile.”

WORMS-1 can be seen in action, in the video below.

MIT WORMS Development Video Oct 2022

Source: MIT